DefendDefenders and CIVICUS release report ahead of Tanzania’s UPR review

In a joint report prepared ahead of the UN Human Rights Council’s review of Tanzania in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), DefendDefenders and CIVICUS examine the country’s human rights record with a focus on civic space since its last UPR review, which took place in 2016. 

Tanzania’s upcoming UPR review will be the first to take place after former President John Magufuli took office in 2015. Magufuli passed away in March 2021, after a controversial re-election in October 2021. Since his election in 2015, authorities have increasingly restricted civic space, leading to mounting international concern over human rights in the country. 

This submission to the 39th session of the UPR Working Group (UPR39) assesses the extent to which Tanzanian authorities have upheld citizens’ rights to freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression (including access to information and the situation of journalists). It also looks at the situation of human rights defenders (HRDs) and civil society. 

Since 2016, there have been increasing attacks on and arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of HRDs, civil society activists, and journalists. This points to a pattern of systematic restrictions on fundamental freedoms. Civic space in Tanzania is currently classified as “repressed” by the CIVICUS Monitor

Tanzanian law guarantees a number of rights in accordance with international standards; however, citizens’ enjoyment of these rights is limited in practice. Due to fear of arrest, censorship, and persecution, individuals and organisations often refrain from exercising their right to freedom of expression, both online and in print. 

The submission contains a number of action-oriented recommendations. We urge the Tanzanian government, under President Samia Suluhu Hassan, to cease the restrictions and attacks on civic space, and to ensure accountability for violations and abuses. We encourage the authorities to review and repeal, where necessary, the many restrictive laws that stifle freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. We urge the government to review the hostile policies that directly target HRDs, including civil society activists and the media. 

Download the full report


Human Rights Defender of the month: Alex Njenga John

Alex Njenga has always believed in egalitarianism both as a principle and as a tool for justice. As a result, he has always been suspicious of, and at times hostile to social prejudices that treat some people as “more equal than others,” – to use a line from George Orwell’s famed political fable, Animal Farm.

Some of the experiences that have shaped his social and political outlook have been personal. As an adolescent in Kenya’s Uasin Gishu County, Alex was stigmatised and denied healthcare after he identified himself as belonging to Kenya’s sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) community.