Tanzania deports three lawyers for ‘promoting homosexuality’

Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli speaks during a joint press conference with Kenyan President on October 31, 2016 at the State House in Nairobi. President Magufuli is in the country for a two-day state visit. / AFP / SIMON MAINA (Photo credit should read SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images)

Tanzania has deported three lawyers, saying they “promoted homosexuality”.

The move comes amid a wider crackdown on LGBT+ people.

The South African lawyers were working with the Initiative for Strategic Litigation (ISLA).

They were three of a group of thirteen people arrested last week at the Peacock Hotel in Dar es Salaam.
The local police chief, Lazaro Mambosasa, told AFP that the lawyers had been “promoting homosexuality”.

“Tanzanian law forbids this act between people of the same sex, it is a violation of our country’s laws,” adds Mambosasa.

Earlier this month, Tanzania outlawed a charity that was planning a legal challenge against its homophobic purge, after arresting its executive.

The men were arrested after a raid on the Peacock Hotel, and those detained included several lawyers and a charity exec, as well as the hotel manager.

The hotel was being used by an NGO, the Community Health Education Services & Advocacy (CHESA) group, to hold a workshop for the gay community.

The government claimed the group was engaged in “the promotion of marriage between people of the same sex”, but CHESA says its was actually meeting to discuss a legal challenge to the government’s decision to restrict HIV services in the country.

But in a response to the incident, the government announced it would be suspending CHESA’s operation entirely, effectively blocking any challenge.

Tanzanian police

Tanzanian police (Photo by Daniel Hayduk/AFP/Getty Images)

An official confirmed that it had “suspended the business of the organisation Community Health Education Services and Advocacy (CHESA) in order to enable the conduct of the investigation into allegations involving the organisation in the promotion of marriages between persons of the same sex”.

A statement from CHESA said: “On Tuesday, 17 October 2017, a legal consultation convened by the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) and Community Health Services and Advocacy (CHESA) was raided by the Tanzanian Police.

“The consultation was convened in order to get more instructions and evidence on a case that we plan to file before a court. The case concerns a challenge to government’s decision to limit the provision of certain health services that it had previously provided.

“Thirteen people were detained and released on bail with no charges made. On Wednesday, the Regional Commissioner of police issued a press statement, referring to the ‘arrests’ and stated that twelve people who were promoting homosexuality had been arrested.

“This mischaracterisation of a legal consultation where lawyers and their clients were discussing a very specific case to be referred to the court is unfortunate. The police had a copy of the concept not and the agenda of the consultation.

“Three lawyers were part of the group, that was detained, include ISLA’s executive director, Sibongile Ndashe. The bail was revoked on Friday 20 October 2017 with the view of starting the investigation afresh. All thirteen people are back in custody.”

The statement adds “The Tanzanian Constitution enshrines the right to seek legal redress when fundamental rights have been violated.

“The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights, which Tanzania is a signatory to, also recognises an individual’s right to an appeal to competent national organs against acts violating his fundamental rights as recognised and guaranteed by conventions, laws and customs in force.

“Tanzania is a signatory to a number of international human rights treaties that recognizes these and other related rights.

“We view this as an attempt to intimidate citizens from approaching judicial institutions when their rights have been violated, to create an environment where lawyers are afraid to provide legal representation and to ultimately create an environment where it is unthinkable to hold the state accountable for human rights violations.

“There is no legal basis for these proceedings. We call upon Tanzanian authorities to discontinue the ongoing proceedings.”

In Tanzania, male homosexual sex carries a sentence anywhere between 30 years and life in prison.

The country’s Colonial-era penal code criminalises anyone who “has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature.”

Earlier this year, Tanzania stopped health clinics from providing HIV services, saying they “cater to homosexuals.”

It is believed 33,000 people in Tanzania died from AIDS-related illnesses last year, and 1.4 million are living with the disease nationwide.

Tanzania has recently launched a crackdown on LGBT activists and advocates, threatening arrest or expulsion from the country.

“Those who want to campaign for gay rights should find another country that allows those things,” the Home Affairs Minister, Mwigulu Nchemba, said.

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