Africa

Tanzania cries ‘homosexuality’ to block health-care lawsuit

Lazaro Mambosasa, police chief of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

Lazaro Mambosasa, police chief of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

The Tanzanian government didn’t like the fact that lawyers were meeting with clients on Tuesday, Oct. 17, in Dar es Salaam to discuss a planned lawsuit seeking restoration of health-care services that have been  dismantled during Tanzania’s ongoing anti-LGBT crackdown. To block that meeting, Tanzanian police moved in, arrested 13 people and accused  them of “promoting homosexuality,” two African advocacy organizations charged today.

Sibongile Ndashe, executive director of ISLA. (Photo courtesy of Flickr)

When she was arrested, Sibongile Ndashe, executive director of ISLA, was in Tanzania discussing a planned lawsuit against the Tanzanian government for obstructing the nation’s fight against HIV/AIDS. (Photo courtesy of Flickr)

“The truth is that the lawyers and activists are not being held for promoting homosexuality, but for challenging absurd, reactionary policies that could cost many HIV positive people their lives,” Human Rights Watch declared in a statement titled Facing Prosecution for Challenging HIV Policies in Tanzania.”  The HRW statement in full is reprinted below.

South Africa-based Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) and Tanzania-based Community Health Services and Advocacy (CHESA) issued this press release about the arrests:

Dar-es-Salaam, 20 October 2016- On Tuesday, 17 October 2017, a legal consultation convened by the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) and Community Health Services and Advocacy (CHESA) was raided by the Tanzanian Police. The consultation was convened in order to get more instructions and evidence on a case that we plan to file before a court. The case concerns a challenge to government’s decision to limit the provision of certain health services that it had previously provided.

Thirteen people were detained and released on bail with no charges made. On Wednesday, the Regional Commissioner of police issued a press statement, referring to the “arrests” and stated that twelve people who were promoting homosexuality had been arrested. This mischaracterisation of a legal consultation where lawyers and their clients were discussing a very specific case to be referred to the court is unfortunate. The police had a copy of the concept note and the agenda of the consultation.

Location of Tanzania in East Africa. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous Tanzanian island.

Location of Tanzania in East Africa.

Three lawyers were part of the group, that was detained, include ISLA’s executive director, Sibongile Ndashe. The bail was revoked on Friday 20 October 2017 with the view of starting the investigation afresh. All thirteen people are back in custody.

The Tanzanian Constitution enshrines the right to seek legal redress when fundamental rights have been violated (Art 30(3)). The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights, which Tanzania is a signatory to, also recognises an individual’s right to an appeal to competent national organs against acts violating his fundamental rights as recognised and guaranteed by conventions, laws and customs in force (Art 7(a)). Tanzania is a signatory to a number of international human rights treaties that recognizes these and other related rights.

We view this as an attempt to intimidate citizens from approaching judicial institutions when their rights have been violated, to create an environment where lawyers are afraid to provide legal representation and to ultimately create an environment where it is unthinkable to hold the state accountable for human rights violations. There is no legal basis for these proceedings. We call upon Tanzanian authorities to discontinue the ongoing persecution of lawyers and their clients. Allow citizens to access legal representation without intimidation and allow the foreign nationals whose passports have been seized to leave the country.
Issued by CHESA and ISLA.


A call for protest letters

CHESA and ISLA urged supporters to protest the arrests by contacting officials in Tanzania and at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. This is a sample email that they suggested, with the email addresses of those officials:

Please, add your logo, signature and name at the bottom, and send to authorities below. Feel free to adapt as you deem appropriate.

George Mcheche Masaju, attorney general of Tanzania. (Photo courtesy of UpClosed.com)

George Mcheche Masaju, attorney general of Tanzania. (Photo courtesy of UpClosed.com)

October 20, 2017

To the Hon. George Mcheche Masaju
Attorney General of the United Republic of Tanzania
Email: g.masaju@bunge.go.tz; ag@agctz.go.tz

To the Hon. Bahame T.M. Nyanduga
Chairperson, Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance
United Republic of Tanzania
Email: bahame.nyanduga@chragg.go.tz

To the Hon. Adv. Pansy Tlakula
Chairperson, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Email: pansy.tlakula@gmail.com

Logo of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. (Click on the image to donate to Justice 4 Eric Lembembe)

Logo of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

To the Hon. Soyata Maiga
Vice- Chairperson, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Email: cabinetsoya@afribone.net.ml; soyatam@yahoo.fr

To the Hon. Solomon Ayele Dersso
Commissioner, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Email: Solomon.dersso@gmail.com [Editor’s note: This is his proper email address, which was corrected Oct. 21. The earlier version contained a typo, so emails bounced back.]

Your Excellencies,

We are writing regarding the recent arrests of thirteen persons, including three lawyers and their clients that was recently carried out by the Tanzanian Police.

John Kashiha, program director of CHESA (Photo courtesy of AMSHeR)

John Kashiha, program director of CHESA (Photo courtesy of AMSHeR)

On Tuesday, 17 October 2017, a legal consultation convened by the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) and the Community Health Services and Advocacy (CHESA) was raided by the Tanzanian Police. The consultation was convened in order to get more instructions and evidence on a case that the two organizations planned to file before a court concerning a challenge to government’s decision to limit the provision of certain health services that it had previously provided.

Thirteen people, including two South African citizens, one Ugandan citizen, were detained. Among the arrested persons are ISLA’s executive director, Sibongile Ndashe, and CHESA’s director, John Kashiha. No one was charged but all were granted bail.

On Wednesday, the Regional Commissioner of police issued a press statement referring to the “arrests” and stated that twelve people who were promoting homosexuality had been arrested. On Friday 20 October 2017, the bail was revoked for everyone for no reason. They were advised that a fresh investigation process was starting and everyone was taken to custody.

The mischaracterization of a legal consultation where lawyers and their clients were discussing a very specific case to be referred to the court as “promotion of homosexuality” is unfortunate and concerning. The police had a copy of the concept note and the agenda of the consultation.

Even more alarming is that three lawyers who were part of the group, including Sibongile Ndashe, were arrested together with their clients.
The Tanzanian Constitution enshrines the right to seek legal redress when fundamental rights have been violated (Art 30(3)). The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights, which Tanzania is a signatory to, also recognizes an individual’s right to an appeal to competent national organs against acts violating his fundamental rights as recognized and guaranteed by conventions, laws and customs in force (Art 7(a)). Tanzania is a signatory to a number of international human rights treaties that recognizes these and other related rights.

The arrest of the thirteen people mentioned above is an attempt to intimidate citizens from approaching judicial institutions when their rights have been violated. Furthermore, the arrest of lawyers while they are advising their clients on the steps to be taken to seek legal redress is clearly aimed at creating an environment where lawyers are afraid to provide legal representation and to ultimately create an environment where it is unthinkable to hold the state accountable for human rights violations.

We are strongly convinced that there is no legal basis for these proceedings, as demonstrated by the press statement released by the Regional Commissioner of police, and that the arrests are arbitrary and politically motivated.

Therefore, we call upon Tanzanian authorities to immediately release the thirteen individuals who are currently arbitrarily detained; to allow citizens to access legal representation without intimidation; to discontinue the ongoing persecution of human rights defenders, lawyers and their clients and refrain from such future actions; and to allow the foreign nationals, whose passports have been seized, to leave the country.

Sincerely,

[name and signature]



 

Facing Prosecution for Challenging HIV Policies in Tanzania

Lawyers Arrested Under Pretext of ‘Promoting Homosexuality’

By Wendy Isaack

When Sibongile Ndashe, a South African feminist lawyer, got on a plane to travel to Tanzania to convene a meeting of human rights lawyers and activists, she knew she might come under the scrutiny of Tanzanian authorities. But what she did not expect was for Tanzanian police to raid the October 17 workshop at the Peacock Hotel and arrest her and 12 of her colleagues for “promoting homosexuality.”

The 13 were hauled to a police station, where an officer granted them bail without laying formal charges.

Peacock Hotel, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Tanzanian police arrested lawyers and activists on Oct. 17 at the Peacock Hotel, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (Photo courtesy of CorcoranProductions.com)

A day later, Lazaro Mambosasa, Dar es Salaam head of police, confirmed the arrests to the press, claiming the “criminals” had violated Tanzanian law. While it is true that “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” is criminalized in Tanzania under a colonial-era law, by no measure of the imagination is it a crime to hold a meeting. In fact, the meeting, which had been organized by the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA), a Pan African organization whose mandate is to advance women’s and sexual rights, was not even about homosexuality. Its aim was to explore the possibility of mounting legal challenges to the government’s ban on drop-in centers serving key populations at risk of HIV, as well as the ban on importation of water-based lubricants, an essential HIV prevention tool.

Inexplicably, the bail was revoked on Friday, October 20. Ndashe and her colleagues are now back in custody on unknown charges but potentially facing criminal prosecution.

The arbitrary arrest of the 13 lawyers and activists is a sign of the Tanzanian government’s increasing lack of tolerance for freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. The recent arrests follow a disturbing pattern, in which several dozen people have been arrested since December 2016 for “homosexuality” or “promoting homosexuality”. In most of these cases police have not presented any evidence whatsoever suggesting that those detained have engaged in same-sex conduct.

The truth is that the lawyers and activists are not being held for promoting homosexuality, but for challenging absurd, reactionary policies that could cost many HIV positive people their lives. Tanzanian police should immediately release Sibongile and her colleagues and drop any politically motivated charges.

Related articles:

 

6 thoughts on “Tanzania cries ‘homosexuality’ to block health-care lawsuit

  1. For a country that is 3rd world, and has many problems with poverty and other issues, seems to me they would be concentrating on things that are more important to the people as a whole, and not waste time and efforts on what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom… No wonder they are backwards and a Third World Country and will stay there until they realize equal rights for all is what makes their country prosperous and great, by removing judgments, hate and discrimination for all people.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Tanzania: 12 arrests for allegedly ‘promoting homosexuality’ | 76 CRIMES

  3. Pingback: Tanzania cries 'homosexuality' to block health-care lawsuit - Ditmatrix

  4. Pingback: Protests: Tanzania keeps anti-HIV lawyers in jail; no charges | 76 CRIMES

  5. Pingback: Tanzania deports 3 anti-AIDS lawyers for ‘promoting homosexuality’ | 76 CRIMES

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s