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Amnesty reacts as Tanzania withdraws from African court

Tuesday December 3 2019

Dr Augustine Mahiga

Tanzania's Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Dr Augustine Mahiga. FILE PHOTO | THE CITIZEN 

THE CITIZEN
By THE CITIZEN
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Dar es Salaam. International human rights group Amnesty International has raised the red flag over Tanzania’s move to block the right of individuals and NGOs to directly file cases against the country at the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR).

The global watchdog reckons the move will deepen repression in the neighbouring country.

Tanzania has the highest number of cases filed by individuals and NGOs as well as judgments issued against it by the Arusha-based court. Out of the 70 decisions issued by AfCHPR by September 2019, 28 decisions, or 40 percent, were on Tanzania.

Last week, the African Court ruled that a section of the Tanzanian penal code which provides for mandatory death sentence in capital offences violates the right to fair trial and undermines judicial independence, but also the right to life. 

Earlier, the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Dr Augustine Mahiga told The Citizen that action had been taken regarding the decision to withdraw but he said Tanzania was only asking for a review of a protocol it had deemed ‘contentious.”

The move attracted local and international concern, with the Amnesty International’s Africa Advocacy Coordinator Japhet Biegon saying the withdrawal of rights will rob people and organizations in Tanzania a vital avenue to justice.

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“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,” he 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.” 

He said the move also undermines the authority and legitimacy of the African Court and is an outright betrayal of efforts 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 some justice systems.