Tanzania: Government, Rights Body Seek to Cooperate

Dar es Salaam — The government has expressed its resolve to work with human rights defenders demanding change in some laws in a bid to facilitate better performance of human rights advocacy in Tanzania.

The resolution was reached during a joint session between the Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs and the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) held in Dodoma on Thursday.

This was in promotion of co-operation and 'good relations' between the ministry and rights defenders and was used to discuss the legal and practical challenges facing the latter as well as lobbying the ministry to take appropriate action in sorting the challenges.

One such issue was demand for amendment of the Basic Rights and Duties Enforcement Act, provisions that arbitrarily, according to them, restricted fundamental human rights, including the right to equality before the law.

They were also concerned about the legality of denying bail to suspects of money laundering offences.

"The right to bail has also been curtailed by the fact that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is also granted powers to file for denial of bail under the Economic and Organized Control Act and the National Security Act," they said in a statement. Other challenges highlighted were: shortage of judicial staff of 4,404 workers, which equals to 42.5 percent, delays in granting copies of judgments and conducting police investigations and constant adjournment of cases.

The group wanted the government to make the Economic and Organized Crime Control Act bailable.

"The Court should be granted powers to deny bail under exceptional circumstances. For instance, where the accused person has skipped bail before, and this should be done on a case-by-case basis," reads part of THRDC's statement.

However, the government stated that it had a responsibility to respect and adhere to human rights systems, for individuals, groups and communities as a whole, as well as to design and implement strategies to promote, protect and implement human rights and their shared responsibilities.

At the meeting, the government also said it would continue to take further steps to reduce the backlog of cases in the courts, strengthen the system of assistant registrars in all councils to facilitate the coordination and provision of legal aid to citizens...

It also said it would ensure better legal services were available on time and at a lower cost by adding experts, infrastructure, equipment and moving services closer to the people.

"Therefore, we are ready to work with you and our stakeholders on access to justice and human rights issues," said Prof Paramagamba Kabudi, the minister of Constitutional and Legal Affairs.

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