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To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland

16 August 2018

Tanzania: Open letter to states for joint action to address crackdown on civic space and prevent a further deterioration of the situation


Ahead of the 39th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (“the Council”), which will be held from 10 to 28 September 2018, we write to call on your delegation to deliver statements, both jointly and individually, to address the ongoing crackdown on civic space and human rights backsliding
in the United Republic of Tanzania.

Considering the rapidly declining environment for human rights defenders (HRDs), civil society, journalists, bloggers, the media and dissenting voices in Tanzania, we, the undersigned non-governmental organisations (NGOs), make a joint appeal to member and observer states of the Council. At the 39th
session, states should urge the Tanzanian government to change course, cease any form of intimidation, harassment and attacks against HRDs, journalists, bloggers, and opposition members and their supporters, and amend restrictive laws and regulations with a view to bringing them in line with international
human rights standards.

Since 2015, Tanzania has implemented newly enacted draconian legislation and applied legal and extrajudicial methods to harass HRDs, silence independent journalism and blogging, and restrict freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.

We call on your delegation to make use of the following agenda items [1] to raise concern, jointly and individually, and to engage in a constructive dialogue with the Tanzanian authorities:

  • General debate under item 2, following the High Commissioner’s update.

  • General debate under item 3, in relation to reports of the High Commissioner and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

  • General debate under item 4.

  • General debate under item 10.

  • Interactive dialogues with the Working Group on arbitrary detention and the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances.

  • Additionally, bilateral and collective engagement in multilateral fora such as the Council and at the embassy level, in Tanzania, should be used to raise relevant issues with the government.

Through these opportunities for dialogue, your delegation can help the Council fulfil its responsibility to “address situations of violations of human rights […] and make recommendations thereon” and to “contribute, through dialogue and cooperation, towards the prevention of human rights violations and respond promptly to human rights emergencies.” [2]

The 39th session should be leveraged to help prevent a further deterioration of the human rights situation in Tanzania and send the Tanzanian government a message that the international community expects it to uphold its citizens’ human rights, in line with its obligations and the country’s history of openness, engagement, and respect for human rights.

We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and stand ready to provide your delegation with further information.


1. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
2. Africans Rising for Justice, Peace & Dignity
4. Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
5. Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
6. Caucasus Civil Initiatives Center
7. Сenter for Civil Liberties – Ukraine
8. CEPO – South Sudan
9. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
10. Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) – Uganda
11. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
12. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
13. Conectas Human Rights – Brazil
14. DefendDefenders (The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
15. FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
16. Freedom House
17. Global Witness
18. HAKI Africa – Kenya
19. Human Rights Concern – Eritrea
20. HURISA – South Africa
21. International Civil Society Center
22. JOINT Liga de ONGs em Mocambique – Mozambique
23. Ligue Burundaise des droits de l’homme Iteka – Burundi
24. Observatoire des droits de l’homme au Rwanda – Rwanda
25. Odhikar – Bangladesh
26. Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains/West African Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH/WAHRDN)
27. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
28. Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)
29. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
30. Zambia Council for Social Development (ZSCD) – Zambia

[1] See the annex for more detailed proposals for action.

[2] UN General Assembly resolution 60/251, paras. 3 and 5(f).