Civil rights groups sue Tanzanian government for ‘massive violations’ by its police

In the recent general election in which President John Pombe Magufuli was voted back into office, four civil rights organizations are suing the Tanzanian government for “massive violations.”

Organizations from Kenya and Uganda are suing Tanzania at the East African Court of Justice, alleging that during the election campaigns and after the results were announced in October, security agents clobbered, disappeared, detained, and even murdered opposition supporters.

“The government, through its security services and other institutions of the state, engaged in a campaign of serious and massive violations of the rule of law and fundamental and operational principles of the East African Community Treaty,” the organisations said in suit papers.

Tanzania’s regional integration credentials could once again be tested in the EACJ case, given that its domestic laws prohibit any legal challenge to presidential elections once the results have been declared by the National Electoral Commission.

Dar es Salaam is being sued by the Kenya Human Rights Commission, the Kenya Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-K) and Uganda’s Chapter Four, and the Centre for Constitutional Governance for violations committed by a partner state of the East African Community (EAC).

They argue that Article 30(1) of the EAC Treaty gives them the right to sue as “persons residing within an EAC partner state.” They also argue that Tanzania was bound by the provisions of the Treaty on good governance, social justice, transparency, and protection of human rights as a member of the EAC.

The four organizations say that during last October’s elections, the state committed targeted violence against ordinary citizens, journalists, activists, opposition supporters, politicians, and others who held or were perceived as holding alternative political views.

According to the National Electoral Commission of Tanzania, the election saw Magufuli emerge victorious with 12.5 million votes or 84.39 percent of the vote. Tundu Lissu, his closest opponent, garnered 1.9 million votes. Thirteen others dropped below 3%. Of the 264 seats in Parliament, the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi also won 262.

Yet the landslide victory was clouded with claims of irregularities. The Tanzanian Elections Watch a group of observers from the continent said the vote count “raised questions of credibility” and asked authorities to investigate. The NEC rejected voter stuffing claims and denied any wrongdoing by the police.

The four NGOs want the EACJ to state that the conduct of security agents in Tanzania constitutes violations of the treaty.

They also want the Court to order reparations, including damages, the Tanzanian government’s apology, an independent investigation into infringements to prosecute the perpetrators, and appropriate reforms to avoid recurrence.

This will be the second major case facing the Tanzanian government under a Court established as part of the EAC’s organs. In 2014, after the EACJ called Tanzania’s plans to build a major highway through the Serengeti National Park “unlawful,” the conservationists led by the Africa Network for Animal Welfare won against Dar.

According to The EastAfrica, the NGO had argued that the Serengeti ecosystem, linked to the Masai Mara of Kenya, was crucial for animal survival and that what it called a transboundary resource would be disrupted by a highway.

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