Urgent Interventions

Arbitrary arrest and subsequent release of Mr. Ole Ngurumwa Onesmo and Mr. John Baraka.


TZA 002 / 0617 / OBS 062

Arbitrary Arrest / Release on bail /

Judicial Harassment/Obstacle to freedom of peaceful assembly


June 8, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, apartnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requestsyour urgent intervention in the following situation in Tanzania.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about policeattempts to hinder a meeting organised by an NGO, including via the arbitraryarrest and subsequent release of Mr. OleNgurumwa Onesmo, National Coordinator of the Tanzania Human RightsDefenders Coalition (THRDC), and Mr. JohnBaraka, Coordinator of the Tanzania Students Networking Programme (TSNP),known for advocating and supporting the role of human rights defenders inpublic life and civil society at large.

According tothe information received, on June 3, 2017, TSNP was informed by the owners of the Blue Pearl Hotel that they couldnot enter without a permission letter from the police the venue of a booklaunch event scheduled to take place at the Ubungo Plaza, Blue Pearl Hotel topresent Sauti ya Watetezi wa Haki Vyuoni(The Voice of Human Rights Defenders in Universities), a book thatillustrates the harassment tactics used to remove human rights defenders frompositions in higher education institutions in Tanzania, authored by Alphonce Lusako[1],the General Secretary of TSNP.

Three police vehicles then arrived at the hotel while event organiserswere negotiating with hotel management out-front and arrested Mr. Baraka. WhenMr. Onesmo objected to his arrest, he was then immediately arrested too. Bothwere transported to Magomeni Police Station without having their chargesarticulated to them. THRDC Advocate Mr. JonesSendodo attempted to inquire about the nature of the charges, but policewere unable to confirm any charges at the time of the arrests. Police informedMr. Sendodo they were awaiting orders from superior authorities.

On the same day, Messrs. Onesmo and Baraka were later charged withcriminal trespass, after the Ubungo Plaza, Blue Pearl Hotel filed a complaintstating the men had forced the hotel to host the launch event for theircolleague Mr. Alphonce Lusako. Messrs. Onesmo and Baraka were released on bail that sameday, with instructions to report to the police on June 5, 2017[2].

Reporting to the station on June 5, the men were informed that the BluePearl Hotel had not yet filed documentation required to formalize theircomplaint. They were ordered to return on June 7, 2017. When contacted by Mr. Onesmo onJune 6, the Blue Pearl Hotel claimed to be unaware of any criminal complaintsagainst Messrs. Baraka, and Onesmo. However, it was only on June7 that Blue Pearl representatives confirmed that they had filed a complaint atthe direction of an “unknown authority”.

As of June, 7 2017, the Blue Pearl Hotel has not presented any evidenceor documentation to police to substantiate their claims. Indeed, TSNP reportedthat Blue Pearl Hotel had freely agreed to host the event, had received thepayment agreed upon for hosting it and was issued the corresponding receipt.Therefore the Police informed Mr. Onesmo that they would expedite theinvestigation to compel Blue Pearl to provide evidence.

The Observatory was also informed that the incident described above wasnot the first attempt to hinder the book launch event. Indeed, the event wasinitially planned to be held at the Commission of Science Technology (COSTECH),an institution affiliated with the government of Tanzania. In violation of acontractual agreement, COSTECH cancelled the event, forcing the organisers tomove the event to the Ubungo Plaza, Blue Pearl Hotel[3],where THRDC had already organised several events without any issue.

The Observatory expresses its deepestconcern with the arrests andjudicial harassment of Messrs. Onesmo and Baraka, as they appear to be linked to their human rights activities,and condemns the unlawfulinterference with TSNP’s right to organise meetings in private locations, inviolation of domestic, regional and international provisions guaranteeing theright to freedom of peaceful assembly.

The Observatory urges the Tanzanian authorities to drop all chargesagainst Messrs. Onesmo and Baraka and to ensure that all judicialproceedings against them are carried out in full compliance with their right toa fair trial as protected under domestic and international law.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Tanzania asking them to:

i. Put anend to all forms of harassment against Messrs. Onesmo and Baraka, including atthe judicial level, against them as well as against all members of the TSNP andthe THRDC and generally against all human rights defenders in Tanzania;

ii. Guarantee Messrs. Onesmo and Baraka’s rightto due process and a fair trial, as protected under domestic and internationallaw;

iii. Order an immediate, thorough, transparentinvestigation into the facts, including the alleged interference of state authorities,mentioned in this urgent appeal in order to clarify the events, identify allthose responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and apply them thesanctions provided by the law;

iv. Conform with theprovisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9,1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, especially Articles1 and 12.2;

v. Ensure in allcircumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordancewith international human rights standards and international instrumentsratified by Tanzania.


· Presidentof Tanzania, Hon. Dr. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli; Fax: +255 22 2113425; E-mail:ikulu@ikulu.go.tz

· Prime Minister of Tanzania, Rt. Hon. Kassim Majaliwa; Fax: +255 222112850; E-mail: ps@pmo.go.tz

· Minister of Constitutional Affairs and Justice, Hon. Prof. Palamagamba John Kabudi; Fax: +255 22 211 3236; E-mail: katibumkuu@sheria.go.tz

· Ministryof Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Hon. Dkt. Augustine Mahiga;Fax: +255 (0)22 226600

· H.E. Mrs.Agnes Kayola, Ambassador, Embassy of Tanzania in Brussels, Belgium; Fax (0032)(0) 2 646 80 26; Email: tanzania@skynet.be

· H.E. Dr. James Alex Msekela, AmbassadorExtraordinary and Plenipotentiary,
Permanent Representative of the United Republic of Tanzania to the UnitedNations,
Geneva and Vienna, Fax: +41 22 732 82 55; Email: mission.tanzania@ties.itu.int.

· ExecutiveSecretary of the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG);Email: chragg@chragg.go.tz/mary.massay@chragg.go.tz, Fax: +255 22 2111533/2111281.

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Tanzania in yourrespective countries.


Geneva-Paris, June 9, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of thisappeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (theObservatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The objective of thisprogramme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rightsdefenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the EuropeanUnion Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civilsociety.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

Teland fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

[1] Mr. Lusako got expelled from theUniversity of Dar es Salaam in 2011 without motive. He was re-admitted by thesame University through the Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU), and gotexpelled again on January 26, 2017. He has lodged a case to challenge thedecision of the University and his case is still pending in the High Court ofTanzania.

[2] See THRDC Press statement, June 3, 2017:http://thrdc.or.tz/press-statement-on-the-arrest-of-the-national-coordinator-of-the-tanzania-human-rights-defenders-coalition-thrdc-mr-onesmo-olengurumwa-and-mr-bara

[3] The Blue Pearl Hotel is owned by the MARK HospitalityGroup International, which manages 11 premier properties in Tanzania.

Sign up now

Subscribe to our latest news & alerts