Barua ya Wazanzibari kwa Amnesty
1 Easton Street
REF: HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE IN ZANZIBAR ISLAND
Recent developments in Zanzibar show that the authorities there have taken a big step backwards in terms of human rights. Rampant and deplorable human rights abuses came to light during a series of events which led to confrontations between the police and followers of an Islamic organisation called UAMSHO (Awakening).
UAMSHO, a registered NGO, has been active in Zanzibar for a number of years now. In addition to its religious activities, it has taken part in observing elections, has produced well-researched reports on past elections and has provided civic education to the populace. The organisation has a wide grass root support within the community. Recently it has been actively championing for the restoration of Zanzibar’s sovereignty.
The government has accused it for inciting its followers to commit unlawful activities. UAMSHO denies it and has on its part accused government security apparatuses of inflicting harm on its followers during their peaceful demonstrations. This pattern of accusations and counter accusations culminated last month with the three day mysterious ‘disappearance’ of a charismatic leader of UAMSHO, Sheikh Farid Ahmed Hadi. UAMSHO maintained that the Sheikh was abducted by the security forces, a charge which the government denied.
However, when Sheikh Farid resurfaced he too intimated that he had been abducted by the security organs. The government’s response was to promptly arrest him together with his fellow leaders and to charge with several criminal offences. This came as no surprise as for weeks rumours were rife that the government was under pressure by diehards of the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), Tanzania’s ruling party, to ban UAMSHO. It is not our intention to judge the merit or demerit of the case as it is sub-judice.
What is troubling us is the well prepared measures to humiliate all the detainees connected with UAMSHO. By their actions the state organs have shown that they are bent on humiliating and dehumanizing the UAMSHO detainees. For example, despite knowing very well how Muslims sheikhs cherish their beards the sadist jailers have found it proper to forcefully shorn them of their beards. They did it even before the accused were brought to court for the first time. Defence lawyers have publicly complained of other forms of mistreatment meted out to the detainees. These include, denying them the opportunity to offer their obligatory prayers, denying them a change of clothes since their arrest and inhuman prison conditions. No doubt the jailers what they do to satisfy their primitive sense of power, to show Zanzibaris that they are capable of doing whatever they want to do and nobody can question them.
It is sad to note that the government has remained silent to all these injustices. The detainees constitutional rights are denied. The protests of their lawyers have fallen on deaf ears. In the meantime, indiscriminate harassment of ordinary citizens continues unabated. All those suspected of being sympathetic to UAMSHO are publicly brutalized. It reminds us of the dark days of Zanzibar when there was no respect for human rights.
We, therefore, appeal to all human rights activists to urge the Tanzanian and Zanzibar governments to impress upon their state organs the urgent need of according each and every citizen their human rights.
Human Right Watch – UK
High Commissioner of United Republic of Tanzania – UK
High Commissioner of Republic of Kenya – UK
High Commissioner of Uganda – UK