The Kenya Human Rights Commission stands in solidarity with thirteen human rights defenders arrested and detained by Tanzanian authorities in Dar-es-Salaam on the 17th and 20th October, 2017, respectively.

The human rights defenders were arrested and detained during a meeting convened by Community Health Education Services & Advocacy (CHESA) and the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) to obtain instructions and evidence on a case these organisations plan to file before a court. The Tanzanian government stated that the human rights defenders were arrested on charges of ‘promoting homosexuality’ – a charge that does not exist under Tanzanian law.  Since these arrests and detentions, the Tanzanian government has moved to suspend CHESA for ‘promotion of marriage between people of the same sex.’

We condemn in the strongest terms these arrests and detentions of human rights defenders legitimately carrying out their work and conforming to Tanzania’s laws and regulations.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission calls for the immediate release of all thirteen human rights defenders. The arrest of the human rights defenders goes against Tanzanian and international human rights laws, especially as they pertain to freedom of expression and freedom of association under Articles 18 and 20 (1) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania respectively. Article 15 (2) (a) of the Constitution prohibits the state from arresting or detaining persons save only under circumstances and in accordance with procedures prescribed by law. Tanzania’s own Constitution recognises the right to seek legal redress when fundamental rights have been violated under Article 30 (3).

This latest development falls in line with attempts to intimidate human rights defenders working on the right to health of extremely marginalised members of Tanzanian society, including LGBTI persons. The Government of Tanzania should strive to ensure that all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, have access the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health. Further, the Government of Tanzania should ensure that organisations that work on these important issues carry out their work without intimidation from the state, in line with international law and Tanzania’s own Constitution.