Tanzania: Drop Charges against Human Rights Defenders

Press Statement

10th February 2012

Sixteen human rights defenders were arrested, charged with “unlawful protest”, and released on bail in Dar es Salaam yesterday. The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) and the Tanzanian Human Rights Defenders Coalition call on the Tanzanian authorities to drop all charges immediately.
The human rights defenders were arrested on their way to observe a meeting at Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam at around noon on Thursday 9th February 2012. A day earlier around 200 activists had occupied a major bridge and surrounding roads in the city to press the government to reconcile with the doctors’ strike. The protestors called on the Minister of Health and other senior officials to resign over their failure to resolve the health crisis in the country. Human rights defenders had released a joint statement condemning the hundreds of deaths in Tanzania during the crisis.
Those arrested include Dr. Helen Kijo Bisimba, the Executive Director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) – EHAHRDP’s focal point organisation in Tanzania – and LHRC staff members Marcus Albany, Anna Migila, Advocate Godfrey Mpandikizi and an intern from the Canadian Bar Association, Erin Riley. The Executive Directors of TAMWA and SIKIKA, Ananilea Nkya and Irenei Kiria respectively, as well as five staff members of the Tanzania Gender Network, were also among those arrested.
The activists were released on bail at around 6 pm on 9th February. They are due to appear in court on 14th February.
The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the Tanzanian Human Rights Defenders Coalition urge the Tanzanian authorities to respect the internationally recognized right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to drop all charges against the 16 human rights defenders without delay. The Tanzanian authorities should protect the right of human rights defenders to carry out their legitimate work without harassment or reprisals.

For more information, please contact:
Rachel Nicholson, Advocacy Officer, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project on [email protected] or +256 7789 21274 (mobile)

Onesmo Paul Kasale Olengurumwa, Coordinator Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Legal and Human Rights Centre on [email protected], +255 22 2773038/48 (office) or +255 717082228 (mobile)


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.