Urgent Interventions

'Tanzania: Judicial proceedings against the Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT)


New information
TZA 001/0111/OBS 097.01
Judicial proceedings / Harassment
29 may 2002

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a program of FIDH and OMCT, requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Tanzania.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed that Mr. Nshala Rugemeleza, President of the Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT) and Mr. Tundu Lissu, a lawyer of LEAT, are facing charges of sedition against the government. Their trial is to take place on 31 May.

These charges are linked with LEAT’s statements in favour of an independent investigation into the Bulyanhulu massacre of August 1996, when fifty miners were allegedly killed and buried alive during the eviction by force of thousands of miners from the Bulyanhulu area.

Mr. Tundu Lissu and Nshala Rugemeleza are charged together with Mr. Augustine Mrema, leader of the opposition party Tanzania Labour Party, who has also asked for an independent investigation into Bulyanhulu events. If the charges are levied on 31 May, they could face up to 2 years imprisonment.

The Observatory is very worried by these charges, which clearly show the obstacles put by the Tanzanian Authorities to the realization of an independent investigation into the Bulyanhulu massacre.

In this regard, the Observatory recalls that in March 2002, independent experts from an international NGO fact-finding mission (Canada and US based NGOs), invited by LEAT, were barred from visiting Bulyanhulu area, and LEAT accused of “contravening laws of the land and immigration laws”.

In the same time, the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi organized public meetings in Bulyanhulu villages to condemn those who claimed that there were people killed in the mine. In the meetings, some people claimed that their names appeared in the list of victims established by LEAT, in an attempt to discredit the organisation, and asked legal proceedings against people advocating the killings, i.e. LEAT.

In April 2002, the Observatory had then been informed that some LEAT members were receiving threatening telephone calls.

The Observatory considers these charges to be arbitrary, since they only aim at sanctioning their activities of denunciation of alleged human rights abuses against small scale miners in Bulyanhulu and at sanctioning LEAT’s legal activities to defend victims’ rights.

These acts of reprisals are a flagrant violation of the Declaration on Human rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nation on 9 December 1998, which states in its article 6.b that “Everyone has the right, individually or in association with others […] freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms” and in its article 9. 3 that : “everyone has the right, individually or in association with other, to offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

Brief reminder of the facts:

The Observatory had been informed that on November 24, 2001, the Police had searched LEAT offices and confiscated a video-tape and some documents. These documents were related to a research conducted by LEAT on the Bulyanhulu massacre of August 1996, when fifty miners were killed, during the eviction by force of thousands of miners from the Bulyanhulu area ; this action was carried out in order to enable the Canadian owned conglomerate, Kahama Mining Company Ltd (KMCL) to take hold of the property. The miners were allegedly buried alive, after the entrances to the galleries in which they worked were bulldozed. The material confiscated included some evidence given to LEAT by the families of the miners, who were assisted by LEAT lawyers.

The Police had then brought Mr. Rugemeliza to his home and took other videotapes, related and unrelated to the event. Mr. Rugemeliza, was then taken to the Police station and remained under Police custody for about 5 hours. He was released on bail and is now required to report daily to the Police.

During their search, the Police also took copies of various grants received by LEAT. It also appeared that the Barrick Gold Corporation, a large gold producing company based in Toronto, which acquired Kahama Mining from Sutton Resources (Canada) in 1999, was allegedly putting pressure on organizations to stop funding LEAT.

According to the information received, this arrest and search followed a press conference held by LEAT on 19th November, during which the organization asked for an international commission of inquiry to investigate the Bulyanhulu massacre of August 1996.

Action requested:

Please write to the authorities in Tanzania urging them to:

i. guarantee the independence of the judiciary and ensure that Mr. Rugemeliza and Mr. Tundu Lissu be granted a fair and impartial trial, in accordance with international human rights standards, so that the charges of sedition against them be dropped, since they are arbitrary ;
ii. put an end to any kind oh harassment against LEAT members ;
iii. ensure the implementation of the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in particular its Article 1 which provides that "Every person has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental liberties at the national and international level" and its article 6.a and 9.3.c above mentioned.
iv. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and international human rights standards.

Adresses :

President of the Union Government: His Excellency Benjamin Mkapa, Office of the President, State House, Magogoni Road, PO Box 9120, Dar Es Salaam,Tanzania. Fax: +255 222 113425, E-mail : ikulu@www.intafrica.com
His Excellency Amani Abeid Karume, President of Zanzibar, PO Box 2422, Zanzibar, Tanzania.
Fax:+255 242 33722 or +255 242 31822
His Excellency, Frederick T. Sumaye, Prime Minister's Office, Dar Es Salaam
E-mail: pmoffice@www.intafrica.com

Paris, Geneva, 29 May 2002

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

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / 01 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 4122 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29
E-mail: observatoire@iprolink.ch
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