The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) yesterday joined fellow human rights activists in the region to petition Tanzanian authorities and Southern African Development Community (Sadc) chairman South African President Jacob Zuma over the persecution of human rights defenders (HRDs) by State actors.
BY PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
ZLHR, an affiliate of Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders (SAHRDN), made the petition to Tanzanian President John Magufuli in the wake of the arbitrary arrest of 13 people, including lawyers and activists, in Dar es Salaam last week during a meeting.
“Through the petition, which has been endorsed by more than 100 organisations and individuals, SAHRDN noted with grave concern the deterioration in the human rights situation in the Sadc region and which escalated with the recent arbitrary arrest and detention of 13 people including lawyers and activists, after law enforcement agents raided a meeting they were attending in the capital Dar es Salaam last week,” ZLHR said.
The arrest took place as gay activists were consulting a team of lawyers on a possible legal application where they think they are being discriminated in accessing public health. These 13 people are from Tanzania, South Africa and Uganda.
“They were attending a legal consultation organised by the Community Health Services and Advocacy (Chesa) and the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA). The purpose of the legal consultations were in respect of a case which Chesa and ISLA intend to file before the Tanzanian courts to challenge the government’s decision to impose some limitations and discontinue the provision of some health services,” ZLHR added.
ZLHR director Roseline Hanzi said their interest was on the working environment of HRDs.
“More worrying is the arrest and detention of lawyers which appear to be a concerted effort to prevent legal practitioners from taking on cases and representing their clients without interference. We consider the arrest and detention of the HRDs in Tanzania as judicial harassment through levying of criminal charges, which is clearly aimed at intimidating HRDs and diverting attention away from their work,” Hanzi said.
She also said the trend had been developing in the region as authorities frequently arrest or intimidate lawyers who take briefings often mistaking the lawyer’s duties as an interest in the matter.