Lawyers in the UK want Tanzania to allow an independent inquiry into the gun attack on Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) president and Singida East Member of Parliament Tundu Lissu.
In a letter sent to State House via e-mail on Wednesday and seen by The East-African, the Law Society [of England and Wales], the Bar Council and the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) have also requested the Tanzanian government to drop sedition charges against Mr Lissu.
The MP is nursing bullet wounds at the Nairobi Hospital in Kenya after unknown attackers shot him outside his home in Dodoma on September 7.
Mr Lissu faces five sedition charges emanating from his political comments and criticism of President John Magufuli’s government.
Since President Magufuli came to power in December 2015, Mr Lissu has been arrested nine times and is considered a major critic of the government.
Break-in and robbery
The letter from the UK lawyers also cites a break-in and robbery in the Prime Attorneys offices in Dar es Salaam where cash and some documents were lost.
The incident took place a few weeks after the bombing of another law firm, Ishengoma Karume& Magai Advocates (IMMMA), also in Dar es Salaam.
At the time of the incident, IMMMA was representing Yusuph Manji, a prominent businessman who was facing economic sabotage charges.
The Director of Public Prosecutions later entered a nolle proseque and he walked free. A number of people were however arrested last week in connection with the matter .
IMMMA is the legal consultant of the UK-based Barrick Gold which is currently embroiled in a row with the Tanzanian government over alleged cheating on the content and amount of mineral concentrates mined and exported by its subsidiary Acacia Mining.
Negotiations with the Tanzania government are ongoing. A partner with IMMMA Fatma Karume is also representing Mr Lissu in one of his sedition cases.
“The shooting of Mr Lissu, and other events that have taken place with regard to members of legal profession and the Tanganyika Law Society in particular, are of great concern.
“The Law Society, the Bar Council and BHRC raise concerns over incidents involving lawyers in Tanzania,” reads the letter to the Tanzanian President.
Breached international accords
According to the UK lawyers, these actions have breached international accords on the rights and principles of citizens, including lawyers and politicians.
The six-page letter signed by the president of the UK Law Society Joe Egan, the chairman of the Bar Council Andrew Langdon and the chairman of the BHRC Kirsty Brime Low, cites a breach on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers that Tanzania ratified.
“We respectfully remind you [the president] of the international legal obligations that are binding on Tanzania and that reflect these rights and principles,” the Law Society notes.
“We urge the authorities to fulfil Tanzania’s international obligations, protect lawyers and ensure that they are able to perform their professional activities without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interferences.”
The letter charges Tanzania with breaching Article 6 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that the country ratified in 1976.
It states that “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”
The UK legal team also charges Tanzania with breaching Article 9 (1): “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law.”
The article further states that, “Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.”
The lawyers also quote Article 22 (1) which notes that: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests,”
Section 2, notes that, “Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly.
“In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights, and to join or form local, national or international organisations and attend their meetings without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organisation.
Section 24 notes: “Lawyers shall be entitled to form and join self-governing professional associations to represent their interests, promote their continuing education and training and protect their professional integrity. The executive body of the professional associations shall be elected by its members and shall exercise its functions without external interference.”
In the letter, the Law Society concludes that: “We await reassurances that the shooting of Mr Lissu will be investigated, the charges against him will be reviewed and that he and his colleagues provided protection if so required.”
However, the Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Security had investigated the issue and is expected to present its findings to parliament in November.
A State House official who spoke to The EastAfrican on condition of anonymity said he was not aware of the letter but that it sounded judgmental and unfortunate.