Urgent Call to Action: On ISLA & CHESA Arrests

Sibongile Ndashe, the Executive Director of the Initiative of Strategic Litigation in Africa, and 12 other human rights lawyers and activists are in detention without charge following their arrest on 17 October, when they were accused of ‘promoting homosexuality’ by conducting a legal consultation with clients relating to access to health services by Tanzanian citizens. 

According to Human Rights Watch, the purpose of the meeting, which was raided by police, was to explore the possibility of legal challenges to  government bans on drop-in centers serving key populations at risk of HIV, and on importation of water-based lubricants, an essential HIV prevention tool.

Homosexuality is criminalised in Tanzania under a colonial-era law. Holding a meeting that was not about homosexuality can surely not be a crime.

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. 

Detaining people defending rights guaranteed in law is an assault on basic freedoms that needs to be vigorously opposed.

Please consider sending a letter to the Attorney General of Tanzania and Human Rights Commissioners calling for the release of the 13 detainees and an end to persecution and intimidation of human rights defenders and their clients.

You can find the letter, including contact details, here. Letters should be e mailed by 24 October 2017.

More information can be found at the links below:

ISLA and CHESA Press Statement - Tanzania arrests

Facing Prosecution for Challenging HIV Policies in Tanzania

Dullah Omar Institute concerned about arbitrary arrest of human rights defenders in Tanzania