Dar es Salaam — A global human rights movement Amnesty International says Tanzania's withdrawal of individual rights to the African court on Human and People's Rights (AfCHPR) will deepen repression.
Reports indicate the Tanzanian government has withdrawn the right of individuals and NGOs to directly file cases against it at the AfCHPR which is based in Arusha.
Tanzania has the highest number of cases filed by individuals and NGOs as well as judgments issued against it by the African Court. Out of the 70 decisions issued by the court by September 2019, 28 decisions, or 40 percent, were on Tanzania.
Last week, the African Court ruled that a section of the Tanzanian penal code which provides for mandatory death sentence in capital offences violates the right to fair trial and undermines judicial independence, but also the right to life.
Earlier, the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Dr Augustine Mahiga told The Citizen that action had been taken regarding the decision to withdraw but he said the country was only asking for a review of a protocol it had deemed 'contentious."
The move attracted local and international concern, with the Amnesty International's Africa Advocacy Coordinator Japhet Biegon saying the withdrawal of rights will rob people and organizations in Tanzania a vital avenue to justice.
"This move effectively blocks individuals and NGOs in the country from directly going to the court to seek redress for human rights violations in what is clearly a cynical attempt to evade accountability,"
"This is yet more evidence of the government of Tanzania's growing hostility towards human rights and human rights defenders. It undermines the authority and legitimacy of the African Court and is an outright betrayal of efforts in Africa to establish strong and credible regional human rights bodies that can deliver justice and accountability."
"The many cases filed against Tanzania at the African Court speak to the abject failure by the country to provide victims of human rights violations adequate and effective remedies nationally, said Biegon.
He said the move also undermines the authority and legitimacy of the African Court and is an outright betrayal of efforts in Africa to establish strong and credible regional human rights bodies that can deliver justice and accountability.
The ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe has also questioned the existence of AfCHPR on Tanzanian soil.
"Is an African court sitting in our own soil an imperialist court as CCM government try to paint everyone opposing their oppression and undemocratic tendencies ?," queried Mr Kabwe on his official twitter page.
Tanzania becomes the second country after Rwanda to withdraw the right of individuals and NGOs to directly access the African Court, a vital continental judicial body in the face of state interference in national justice systems.