Human and civil-rights bodies seek UN action on Tanzania

Saturday May 18 2019

Tanzania police

Tanzania police patrol Manyara. Heavily armed police officers were deployed across major towns on April 26, 2018, in a bid to block anti-government protests called by a US-based Tanzanian social media activist. PHOTO | MWANANCHI  

FRED OLUOCH
By FRED OLUOCH
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Thirty-eight human and civil-rights organisations across the globe want the Tanzanian government to address the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.

In an open letter written this week to the Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the organisations are asking for action against Tanzania at the Human Rights Council’s 41st session scheduled for June 21 to July 12.

“While we do not believe that at this point, the situation calls for a resolution, warning signs of a mounting human rights crisis exist,” says the letter, which was signed by the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network, Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Centre for Civil Liberties– Ukraine, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists among others.

The organisations said that since 30 civil society organisations addressed a letter on Tanzania to Council Members and Observers in August 2018, the space for human-rights defenders, civil society, journalists, bloggers, the media, gay persons, and opposition and dissenting voices has continued to shrink.

However, government spokesman Dr Hassan Abbas, said that Tanzania has already submitted its human rights report early this year to the UN Human Rights Council and has not received any letter from the UN concerning a rights crackdown.

“We know there are some non-governmental organisations that are being used by some powers that have written to the UN complaining about the Tanzania human rights situation. But what we have submitted will serve as the government stand on any human-rights issue,” said Dr Abbas, who added that the government is not answerable to NGOs that churn out cheap propaganda.

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Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s deputy director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said that his organisation stands by the letter which it signed.

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