Tanzanian MPs pass contentious bill boosting leaders’ immunity

Tanzania's parliament on Wednesday approved a series of amendments which will boost the immunity of the country's leaders, which NGOs said would block them from pursuing lawsuits related to rights abuses.
Tanzania's parliament on Wednesday approved a series of amendments which will boost the immunity of the country's leaders, which NGOs said would block them from pursuing lawsuits related to rights abuses.
Image: REUTERS/ NJERI MWANGI

Tanzania's parliament on Wednesday approved a series of amendments which will boost the immunity of the country's leaders, which NGOs said would block them from pursuing lawsuits related to rights abuses.

"The majority of the MPs voted for the bill and now we wait for the president to sign it into law," said deputy Speaker Tulia Ackson during the session broadcast through the online parliament TV channel.

President John Magufuli will soon have immunity from violation of rights abuses
President John Magufuli will soon have immunity from violation of rights abuses
Image: REUTERS

One of the amendments protects the president, vice president, prime minister, the speaker, deputy speaker, chief justice and judicial officers from being sued for any act or ommission done in the performance of their duties.

"Protecting the leaders from being sued when they contravene constitutional rights means giving them powers to continue violating the rights," Anne Henga, executive director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), told a press conference protesting the bill last week.

Another one of the amendments requires that any person filing a lawsuit for constitutional rights violations needs to sign an affidavit explaining how they are personally affected.

Protecting the leaders from being sued when they contravene constitutional rights means giving them powers to continue violating the rights

Rights organisations say that this amendment will block them from seeking justice in the name of victims.

"We have been filing cases against the leaders or government even if we are not directly affected but these amendments will deny NGOs that right," said Onesmo Ole-Ngurumwa, the coordinator of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition.

"This is another big challenge for the NGOs which were blocked from filing cases against the government in the African rights court. Probably this is the hidden intention behind such amendments as well as giving more immunity to leaders," he added.

Last year, Tanzania blocked individuals and NGOs from directly filing cases against the government to the African rights court, which is based in the country.

Since the 2015 election of John Magufuli, authorities have been accused of stifling dissent and limiting freedoms, with opposition leaders and journalists jailed and coming under attack.

On Monday night the chairman of the main opposition party Chadema, Freeman Mbowe, was hospitalised after being beaten up in what his party said was a "politically-motivated" attack. — AFP



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