Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2002 - Tanzania

Harassment against LEAT members59

In April 2002, legal proceedings were instituted against Mr. Nshala Rugemeleza, Chairman of the Lawyers' Environmental Action Team (LEAT) and LEAT lawyer Mr. Tundu Lissu, for "publication with seditious intent" (Newspaper Act, 1976). Mr. Rugemeleza and Mr. Lissu were charged, along with Mr. Augustine Mrema, Chairman of the Tanzanian Socialist Party, in connection with their statements of November 2001 demanding an independent inquiry into the Bulyanhulu massacre of August 1996, during which fifty miners were allegedly killed or buried alive during the forced eviction of thousands of miners in the Bulyanhulu region. LEAT lawyers are assisting the families of the victims. After these declarations, the LEAT offices were searched on 24th November 2001 and documents and video cassettes were confiscated.

At a magistrates' court hearing on 31st May 2002, the lawyers for the defence asked for the case to be transferred to the Supreme Court in order to examine whether Sections 31 and 32 of the Newspaper Act were compatible with the constitution. The case was transferred to the Supreme Court on 1st December 2002. However, although the magistrates' court is no longer competent in the matter, the accused continue to be regularly summoned to that court to hear the charges against them read out.

On 23rd December, Mr. Tundu Lissu was detained for 24 hours in an underground cell at the central police station in Dar Es Salaam.

At the end of 2002, the case was still pending.

In March 2002, a enquiry team made up of experts from several North American NGOs, invited by LEAT, were prevented from visiting the Bulyanhulu site and LEAT was accused of "contravention (...) of laws of the land and immigration laws".

Meanwhile Chama Cha Mapinduzi, the party in power in Tanzania, held meetings in the villages of Bulyanhulu to discredit all those who allege anyone was killed during the evacuation of the mine, and LEAT particularly. In April 2002, members of LEAT received threatening anonymous phone calls. These phone calls have since ceased, but the LEAT telephones are still being tapped.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

59. See Annual Report 2001 and Urgent Appeal TZA 001/0111/OBS 097.01.


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