Urgent Interventions

Tanzania: Ransacking of the offices of an environmental organization


TZA 001/0111/OBS 097
Ransacking of offices/ Harassment
30 November 2001

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.

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed that on November 24, 2001, the Police ransacked the offices of the Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT) in Dar Es Salam, and arrested Mr. Nshala Rugemeliza, LEAT President.

According to the information received, on 24th November, the Police searched LEAT offices and confiscated a video-tape and some documents. These documents are 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 includes some evidence given to LEAT by the families of the miners, who are assisted by LEAT lawyers.

The Police 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. He is accused of “sedition”, along with two other LEAT members, Tundu Lissu and Augustine Mrema.

During their search, the Police also took copies of various grants received by LEAT. According to the information received, this may lead to smear campaigns aimed at discrediting LEAT in the eyes of their donors. It also appears, that the Barrick Gold Corporation, a large gold producing company based in Toronto, which acquired Kahama Mining from Sutton Resources (Canada) in 1999, would be putting pressure on organizations to stop funding LEAT. This constitutes a clear obstacle to LEAT activities.

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.

LEAT is part of the E-LAW (Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide) network, and stands for protection of the environment through law and advocacy. Its members are now afraid that their organization be de-registered.

The Observatory is deeply concerned by these facts which clearly show the obstacles put by the Tanzanian Authorities to the realization of an independent investigation into the Bulyanhulu massacre.

These facts are a flagrant violation of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9th December of 1998, which states in its article 6.a that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to know, seek, obtain, receive and hold information about all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including having access to information as to how those rights and freedoms are given effect in domestic, judicial or administrative system”, and its article 9.3.c that states that “to the same end, everyone has the right to offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

Action requested:

Please write to the authorities in Tanzania urging them to:

i. drop any accusation against Mr. Rugemeliza, Tundu Lissu and Augustine Mrema, as they only aim at sanctioning their human rights activities ;
ii. preserve LEAT registration in any circumstances ;
iii. take all necessary measures to stop any kind of harassment against human rights defenders and their organizations ;
iv. 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.
v. 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

You can also write to the Canadian Representation in Tanzania :

High Commissionner Mr. Wayne N. Hammond
P.O.Box 1022, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Fax: +255 (22) 211 68 97
E-mail: dslam@dfait-maeci.gc.a

Paris, Geneva, 30 November 2001

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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