Authorities in Tanzania jailed 13 activists and lawyers, simply for trying to protect health initiatives against HIV.
On Tuesday (17 October), Tanzanian police raided a legal consultation convened in order to plan for a case against the government.
The case aims to challenge the government’s ban on drop-in centers serving key populations at risk of HIV. It also questions the ban on importation of water-based lubricants, an essential HIV prevention tool.
Two groups were present at the meeting, including the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) and Community Health Services and Advocacy (CHESA).
A joint press statement issued by CHESA and ISLA said: ‘No one has been charged but all were granted bail.
‘On Friday 20 October 2017, the bail was revoked for everyone for no reason,’ the statement read.
Authorities re-arrested the group, without laying charges.
Amnesty International’s Director of Global Issues and Research Audrey Gaughran said: ‘This peaceful group of activists and lawyers will now spend the weekend behind bars despite having done nothing wrong – as illustrated by the fact the authorities have failed to even find a crime to charge them with.
‘All of these people unlawfully detained must be immediately and unconditionally released.
‘These baseless detentions are the latest example of the Tanzanian authorities’ ongoing, unlawful witch hunt against the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community,’ said Gaughran.
International pleas for help
Among the detained is Sibongile Ndashe, a South African lawyer helping with the case.
In an impassioned plea from her friend Kel Mak on Facebook, he wrote: ‘On Friday, my friend Sibongile was arrested along with 12 other people.’
He continued: ‘She has been working to bring charges against the Tanzanian Government for restricting their ability to deliver services for Tanzanians.’
Mak then lists all of the ways you can help.
He implores people to contact the Tanzanian High Commission to reiterate that the detention is illegal. He also implores you to write to them and include your name and your organization.
More details can be found here.
Use the hashtag #FreeSibongile and sign the petition to send a clear message of condemnation to Tanzanian authorities.