Tanzania

Status: Civil society or public discussion

Tanzania has no existing legislation that aims to protect human rights defenders (HRDs). Efforts have been (and are still being) made by the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) to develop a legal framework, but no progress has been made within national legislation. On the contrary, the Tanzanian government is adopting new laws that increase restrictions for defenders. The elections in 2020 caused the situation to deteriorate even further.

The Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) has made important efforts to create a National Policy for HRDs. The THRDC also lobbied for the inclusion of an article for the protection of HRDs in the new Constitution, drafted in 2013. This initiative was, however, dropped when elected members who supported the proposal left the National Assembly after the 2015 elections. In mid-2021, after the change of government, conversations resumed, but there is no major development in the process. The process was further weakened when the Tanzanian government froze THRDC’s assets in 2020. These incidents heighten security risks for members of the coalition and complicate further progress on the proposal.

In October 2023 The Tanzanian Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) gathered defenders from all regions of the country to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the UN Declaration, discuss its implementation in the country and the needs to strengthen their legal framework for the promotion and protection of the rights to defenders through the adoption of a policy on human rights defenders.

Tanzania falls under the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders from the African Commission. In October 2020, a press statement was issued by Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, Commissioner Jamesina King (Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression) and Commissioner Rémy Ngoy Lumbu (the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders) expressing concern regarding recent legal amendment to the Basic Rights and Duties Act[1] in June 2020 and urging the Tanzanian government to take action to reverse these amendments. A letter was also sent by the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, explaining the implications of this amendment for the right to defend human rights.

Tanzania is also monitored via the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). In the 2021 UPR report, Tanzania accepted and supported six recommendations aimed at ensuring the right to defend human rights, combating impunity and amending legislation that restricts HRDs in their fundamental freedoms. In its final submission on 23 March 2022, Tanzania announced it will consider amending legal provisions affecting civil society organisations (CSOs) and HRDs in Tanzania and improving other frameworks governing human rights, freedom of expression, access to justice and the criminal justice system. There are currently no concrete steps taken towards the implementation of these recommendations.

Tanzania is ranked by the 2022 Civicus monitor as “repressed”, which means that civic space is significantly constrained” and is scored “partly free” by the 2021 Freedom House Democracy Index, scoring particularly low on the category of Political Rights. This is mainly due to strong restrictions on media outlets,  amendments to the Basic Rights and Duties Act[2] and impeding groups or persons to open a case on the behalf of other individuals or in public interest (Voule, 2020). Other worrying developments concern the strict censure around reporting on the national elections in 2020, resulting in the detention of human rights defenders.

Updated: 09/11/23


[1] Article 7(b): an application under subsection (1) shall not be admitted by the High Court unless it is accompanied by an affidavit stating the extent to which the contravention of the provisions of Articles 12 to 29 of the Constitution has affected such person personally.
[2] Article 7(b): an application under subsection (1) shall not be admitted by the High Court unless it is accompanied by an affidavit stating the extent to which the contravention of the provisions of Articles 12 to 29 of the Constitution has affected such person personally.

REFERENCES AND DOCUMENTS

African Commision on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa. African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR). https://www.achpr.org/specialmechanisms/detail?id=4

Ayele Dersso, S., King, J., Ngoy Lumbu, R. (2020, October 20). Press Statement of the African Commision on Human and People’s Rights on the human rights situation in Tanzania. African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR). https://www.achpr.org/pressrelease/detail?id=539

Amnesty International (2021, Avril 7). TANZANIE – RAPPORT ANNUEL 2020 https://www.amnesty.be/infos/rapports-annuels/rapport-annuel-2020/rapport-annuel-2020-afrique/article/tanzanie-rapport-annuel-2020

Defend Defenders (2020, August 24). Tanzania: Respect the right to freedom of association. https://defenddefenders.org/tanzania-respect-the-right-to-freedom-of-association/

Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: United Republic of Tanzania. A/HRC/49/13/Add.1 (21 March 2022). Available on https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/2022-03/A_HRC_49_13_Add.1_AV_United Republic of Tanzania_E.docx

International Justice Resource Center (IJRC) (2019, December 5). As African Court Releases New Judgments, Tanzania Withdraws Individual Access. Available on https://ijrcenter.org/2019/12/05/as-african-court-releases-new-judgments-tanzania-withdraws-individual-access/

Mosenda, J. (2021, December 9). Rights defenders hope for a new dawn. The Citizen, https://www.thecitizen.co.tz/tanzania/news/rights-defenders-hope-for-a-new-dawn-3647288

Nyaletsossi Voule, C. (2020). Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=25391

Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) (2013). Annual Progress Report 2013. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC), https://thrdc.or.tz/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/THRDC-Annual-Report-2013.pdf

THE UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA, Act Supplement (17th June, 2020). ISSN 085 – 0331X, https://www.osg.go.tz/uploads/publications/sw1599658016-Act%20No.%206%20of%202020%20-%20The%20Written%20Laws%20(Miscellaneous%20Amendments)%20(No.%203)%20Act,%202020%20-%20MD,%20Mendez.pdf

United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: United Republic of Tanzania. A/HRC/49/13 (21 December 2021).  https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G21/382/86/PDF/G2138286.pdf?OpenElement

Updated on 05/05/22

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