BHRC, with the Bar Council and Law Society, have signed an open letter to the President of Tanzania condemning the violence against lawyers in Tanzania. The letter comes in the wake of the shooting of Tundu Antiphas Mughwai Lissu, the President of the Tanganyika Law Society, just weeks after being arrested by Tanzanian officials under questionable circumstances. His arrest and subsequent shooting are believed to be connected to his public statements against the Tanzanian government and his representation of “opposition” clients. So far, no arrests have been made.
Mr Lissu’s shooting also highlights the broader concerns for the safety and independence of the legal profession in Tanzania. Less than a month before Mr Lissu’s shooting, two bombs were detonated at the gates of the IMMMA law firm. One of the partners of the law firm has been vocal about the decline in the rule of law in Tanzania and has referred to the alleged interference by state authorities with the exercise of the legal profession. The same partner also represented Mr Lissu at a previous bail hearing. On 22 February 2017, the Minister of Constitutional Affairs and Justice, the Hon.Dr. Harrison George Mwakyembe, formally suggested that the Tanganyika Law Society could be de-registered because of “political activism”. In subsequent months, the government has made multiple proposals to amend legal practice legislation with the effect of divesting primary regulation of the legal profession from the Bar and Judiciary to the Ministry of Justice.
BHRC, the Bar Council and the Law Society urge the Tanzanian government to:
1) immediately carry out an independent and effective investigation of the facts and circumstances of the shooting of Mr Lissu, as well as other crimes being committed against members of the legal profession with a view to prosecuting those responsible in accordance with international standards of due process,
2) revoke any charges pending against Mr Lissu, unless sufficient evidence is available, and that evidence is served upon Mr. Lissu and transparent due process with recourse to appeal is followed, and
3) fulfil Tanzania’s international obligations, protect lawyers and ensure that they are able to perform their professional activities without facing intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.
BHRC Chair Kirsty Brimelow QC said,
““In support of our lawyer colleagues, we call upon the State of Tanzania to step up to its international law obligations to allow lawyers to freely express themselves and carry out their legal work. The recent acts of violence against Mr. Lissu and his colleagues should be of real concern to Tanzania. It must act to ensure a thorough and transparent investigation of the crimes and appropriate protective measures for any lawyers who continue to be at risk.”
This article was first published on the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) website. To view the original article, click here.