Arrest of two South African lawyers in Tanzania “an intimidation tactic”

The Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) says that two of its lawyers who were arrested last week for “promoting homosexuality” in Tanzania is a scare tactic.

The lawyers were arrested in a hotel in Dar-es-Salaam on Tuesday along with 11 others from ISLA and Community Health Services and Advocacy (CHESA). They were released on bail with no charges soon after, but were taken back into police custody on Friday and told the case was being investigated by a new team of police.

Those detained were meeting about a case where CHESA was challenging the Tanzanian government’s decision to “limit the provision of certain health services that it had previously provided”.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Tanzanian government has banned drop-in centres serving people at risk of HIV and the importation of water-based lubricants which is a HIV prevention tool.

Project lawyer, Matilda Lasseko said the statement release by the Tanzanian police saying the 13 were arrested for promoting homosexuality was harassment and a scare tactic. “It’s to deter anyone else who might attempt to bring human rights litigation against the state,” she said.

She said the South African high commissioner to Tanzania, Thami Dennis Mseleku has been helping the South Africans.

In a joint statement CHESA and ISLA said there was no legal basis for the arrests. The organisations called on Tanzanian authorities to discontinue the ongoing persecution of lawyers and their clients.

A department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) spokesperson told The Daily Vox he was still waiting for confirmation of the arrests from the high commissioner.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons