Tanzania: Arrest of 12 in Tanzania shows 'activists at risk in Africa'

Human rights activists say the arrest of 12 people in Tanzania underscores the vulnerable position of human rights defenders on the continent. Two South Africans - one of whom is acclaimed human rights lawyer Sibongile Ndashe, who is the director of the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (Isla) - are among the dozen people arrested.

Tanzanian officials told reporters last week that the 12 were arrested for “promoting homosexuality”. They have been detained without charge since Friday, South Africa’s High Commissioner to Tanzania, Thami Mseleku, said.

Isla and Community Health Services and Advocacy (Chesa) said a legal consultation convened by the organisations for a court case against the Tanzanian government had been raided by the Tanzanian police on October17 . The case was a challenge to the Tanzanian government’s decision to limit the provision of certain health services that it had previously provided.

The group were granted bail, but it was subsequently revoked on Friday with no reasons provided, the organisations said.

“They were advised that a fresh investigation process is starting and everyone is taken to custody. This mischaracterisation of a legal consultation where lawyers and their clients were discussing a very specific case to be referred to the court is unfortunate,” said the organisations. 

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