NADEL Media release: Arrest of Lawyers – An attack on the Independence of the Legal Profession and Access to Justice

1. On the 17th of October 2017, thirteen people (3 lawyers, their clients and the hotel manager) were arrested by the Tanzanian police during a legal consultation in preparation for a case wherein they seek to challenge the Tanzanian government’s decision to ban drop-in centres serving key populations at risk of HIV and the provision of certain preventative methods. The thirteen arrested were released on bail but were further rearrested yesterday, the 20th of October 2017. They are currently detained at a police station in Dar Es Salaam.

2. Lazaro Mambosasa (Dar Es Salaam Head of Police) said that the reason for the initial arrest was because the thirteen were promoting Homosexuality, however no formal charges have been laid against the thirteen. Sibongile Ndashe, a feminist Lawyer from South Africa and Director of the Institute for Strategic Litigation in Africa (who is amongst the thirteen arrested) is reported to have said that the preliminary finding by the police (which saw them released on bail after the arrest of the 17th of October) have been rejected by the authorities and now they are back behind bars and that their arrest was a means to frighten them.

3. The actions by the Tanzanian Law Enforcement agencies are a clear attempt to instil fear amongst those who wish to legally challenge the actions of the countries government and the attorneys who wish to assist them. This is occurring despite the fact that the Tanzanian Constitution provides its citizens with the right to seek legal redress when a human right has been violated (Article 30(3).

4. We as the National Association of Democratic lawyers (NADEL) find it inacceptable that an attorney should be persecuted in any manner for providing legal services and even more so for the clients of attorneys to be arrested for seeking legal services. Such action is not just an attack on the independence of the legal profession but a gross assault on justice, the rule of law and the countries very own constitution. An independent legal profession is an essential guarantee for the promotion and protection of human rights and the establishment and maintenance of the rule of law. An important element to an independence of the legal profession is an attorney’s ability to provide legal services without any fear of prosecution from authorities.

5. Members of the public should feel free to consult with a legal professional in seeking legal recourse when they feel that any of their rights are violated. It would be a sad day for justice which will see lawyers unable to defend clients because of fear of persecution.

6. We condemn in the strongest possible form the actions of the Tanzanian Law Enforcement in this matter and join the call of other likeminded organisations for:
(i) The immediate release of the thirteen who are currently detained;
(ii) A cease of all activity aimed at persecution of legal professionals and their clients;
(iii) For the Tanzanian government to take all steps necessary for defending and ensuring the independence of the Legal profession and access to justice;
(iv) To allow the foreign nationals whose passports have been seized to leave the country.

By: Memory Sosibo
Publicity Secretary, NADEL Executive Committee,
Contact: 081 710 7910