Tanzania: Withdrawal of individual rights to African Court will deepen repression

The Tanzanian government has withdrawn the right of individuals and NGOs to directly file cases against it at the Arusha-based African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Amnesty International has established.

This withdrawal of rights will rob people and organisations in Tanzania a vital avenue to justice, in a country whose justice system is deeply flawed.
“This move effectively blocks individuals and NGOs in the country from directly going to the court to seek redress for human rights violations in what is clearly a cynical attempt to evade accountability,” Japhet Biegon, Amnesty International’s Africa Advocacy Coordinator said.

“This is yet more evidence of the government of Tanzania’s growing hostility towards human rights and human rights defenders. It undermines the authority and legitimacy of the African Court and is an outright betrayal of efforts in Africa to establish strong and credible regional human rights bodies that can deliver justice and accountability.”
Tanzania becomes the second country after Rwanda to withdraw the right of individuals and NGOs to directly access the African Court, a vital continental judicial body in the face of state interference in national justice systems.

The government of Tanzania has the highest number of cases filed by individuals and NGOs as well as judgments issued against it by the African Court. Out of the 70 decisions issued by the court by September 2019, 28 decisions, or 40 percent, were on Tanzania.
Similarly, most of the cases still pending before the African Court are against Tanzania, a huge number of them on alleged violations of the right to fair trial, pointing to a systemic problem in the Tanzanian justice system.

Most recently, on 28 November, the African Court ruled that a section of the Tanzanian penal code which provides for mandatory death sentence in capital offences not only violates the right to fair trial and undermines judicial independence, but also the right to life.
“The many cases filed against Tanzania at the African Court speak to the abject failure by the country to provide victims of human rights violations adequate and effective remedies nationally, said Japhet Biegon.

“As the host of the African Court, Tanzania should lead by example and reconsider the decision to withdraw its declaration, demonstrating its support and commitment to the success of the court. It must also strengthen its own justice system to ensure victims of human rights violations can access justice at the national level.”

Background:
The Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Prof Palamagamba Kabudi, signed the notice of withdrawal of the declaration made under Article 34(6) of the African Court Protocol on 14 November 2019. This notification was sent to the African Union on 21 November.

Tanzania’s decision to withdraw its Article 34(6) declaration comes barely a month after Amnesty International released a report detailing a spike in repression in the repression in the country under President John Magufuli.

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