Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania
UN calls on Tanzania to drop new laws that limit ability to protest human rights

The UN has called on Tanzania to immediately drop legislative and other measures that further curb civic space, particularly as the country gears up for October elections, and urged the Government to uphold its international human rights commitments.

The latest amendment to the Basic Rights and Duties Enforcement Act requires anyone seeking legal redress for human rights violations under the Constitution's bill of rights to prove that they are personally affected. The amendments will ultimately prevent organisations from filing cases on behalf of victims, in an environment where accountability mechanisms and access to justice for victims are already fragile.

These amendments to the Act were fast-tracked by Tanzania’s parliament, and threaten to severely restrict the ability of non-governmental groups to challenge laws, practices, or policies they believe violate human rights laws. Parliament also amended the Basic Rights and Duties Enforcement Act to narrow the criteria for legal standing to challenge a law or policy that allegedly violates the constitution’s bill of rights on the 10th of June. 

“The amendments, which were fast-tracked through Parliament without meaningful consultations, are the latest in a string of newly enacted draconian legislation used to intimidate human rights defenders, silence independent journalism, and further restrict freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” the human rights experts said.

The Special Rapporteurs' call comes after the publication of several communications on restrictive laws and subsequent strict implementation, including one sent to the Tanzanian Government on 24 June 2020, expressing concerns about the amendments to the Basic Rights and Duties Enforcement Act. The experts fear these amendments gravely limit the ability of civil society and individuals to defend the rights of vulnerable individuals, groups and communities and violate the right to freedom of association.

The experts said the recent amendments further illustrate the deterioration of the human rights situation since 2016. The East African state, within the African Great Lakes, is home to 56 million people. Tanzania is a member of the Commonwealth and suffers from 'serious' food shortages, according to the Global Hunger Index.