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Tanzania sets in motion its exit from rights court

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PATTY MAGUBIRA

By PATTY MAGUBIRA
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Tanzania’s decision to withdraw from the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) effectively locks out its citizens and civil society groups from accessing justice, analysts have cautioned.

Article 34(6) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights that establishes the AfCHPR requires that before natural persons and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) present cases directly to the African Court, their countries or the countries against which the cases are filed should have declared in writing that they allow such matters to be brought against them.

In Tanzania, many natural persons, especially prisoners, have filed cases against the government.

This past week, the government presented a withdrawal notice to the African Union Commission, heralding its withdrawal from the court.

Earlier, Tanzania Minister for Foreign Affairs Augustine Mahiga said Article 34(6), which requires that a State has to deposit instruments to the African court declaring that its citizens and NGOs can sue it, was contrary to Tanzania’s Constitution.

“The decision has been reached after the declaration has been implemented contrary to the reservation submitted by United Republic of Tanzania when making its declaration,” reads part of the withdrawal notice.

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The declaration was signed by Tanzania’s Foreign Minister Palamagamba Kabudi, and seen by The EastAfrican.

Various stakeholders, including Amnesty International and the UN, have called on Dar es Salaam to reconsider its decision, terming it a step backwards in its human rights commitments.

If the Tanzania government’s decision to withdraw its signature sails through, the country will deny natural persons and NGOs the opportunity to sue it at the African Court.

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The decision will, however, only be effective after 18 months, and will not affect cases that are already filed before the court.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because she is not an authorised spokesperson, an official of the AfCHPR said the court had not yet received the letter that the Tanzanian government had submitted at the African Union Secretariat.
“We’ve heard the reports, just like you,” she said.

Analysts said the move would taint the reputation of the country and encourage some Tanzanians to resort to wayward means of enforcing their rights if political parties are inactive and local courts are not independent.

“Looking at the way officials are appointed, many who believe local courts are not free went to file their cases at the continental outfit,” said Azaveli Lwaitama, the Programme coordinator of Vision East Africa Forum.

Dr Lwaitama said most African governments were uncomfortable with the International Criminal Court.

He said withdrawing from the continental court implied that the government was either afraid of its own citizens or was preparing to replace good governance with impunity.
The chief executive officer of the East Africa Law Society, Hanningtone Amol, said the Tanzania government’s decision did not augur well, given the country hosts the continental court in Arusha.

Denying Tanzanians benefits of accessing the court is denial of opportunity to enjoy expanded human-rights space, he said.

“The court has not done anything unusual that warrants withdrawal by Tanzania,” said Mr Amol. “There is no radical decision that the court has made against Tanzania.”

He said what the court had done was to enforce human rights standards provided for in the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

“Tanzania is affected because its officials have repeatedly been found to have violated the Charter,” he said.

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Woman dies after being electrocuted by a refrigerator: The Standard

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A woman has died in Nyando after she was electrocuted by a refrigerator.
While confirming the incident, Nyando OCPD Leonard Matete said Maureen Atieno (pictured) got electrocuted while opening the fridge at her home in Kakola, Nyando Sub-County.
According to the police boss, the matter was reported by Atieno’s father-in-law who told them that she was going to pick some fish which she wanted to fry and take to the market.
Matete stated that upon proceeding to the refrigerator, a touch on its door electrocuted her instantly. He said Atieno began wailing before she fell on the ground.
The police boss stated that Atieno died while being rushed to Boya Hospital and has since been transferred to Ahero Sub-County hospital’s morgue.
While terming the incident as unusual, Matete stated that they had launched investigations on the incident, and had called Kenya Power to help with the probe.
“We are investigating the matter, we have called in Kenya Power to check on what might have gone wrong,” he stated.
Her death comes barely six months after her late husband, William Omondi Alias Sisqo, who was among the famous Nyando six died in November last year in a gruesome murder in Busia.

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The Guardian view on Covid-19 worldwide: on the march | Opinion

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“Most of the world sort of sat by and watched with almost a sense of detachment and bemusement,” said Helen Clark, appointed to investigate the World Health Organization’s handling of the pandemic. The former New Zealand prime minister was describing the early weeks of the outbreak, and the sense that coronavirus was a problem “over there”. The failure to recognise our interconnection created complacency even as the death toll rose.

It took three months for the first million people to fall sick – but only a week to record the last million of the nearly 13 million cases now reported worldwide. As England emerges from lockdown at an unwary pace, Covid-19 is accelerating globally. The WHO has reported a record surge of a quarter of a million cases in a single day. The death toll is over half a million people and rising fast.

Idlib, Syria’s last rebel-held province, has reported its first case: a frightening portent, given the desperate circumstances in which people are already living. On Thursday, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said new cases were up 24% on the continent in the previous week, with cases surging in South Africa, Kenya and other countries. India, now the world’s third worst-affected country, reported a record rise of 27,000 cases on Saturday, to over 800,000 – almost certainly far below the true level.

Australia and Spain have reimposed local lockdowns, and Hong Kong has shut schools again. But the economic, social and political costs of such measures are all the higher second time around. In Serbia, plans for a strict curfew were downgraded after sparking anti-government protests. Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, has said it cannot afford to shut down again despite rising deaths.

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So no one can afford to be complacent; the UK’s pandemic response should not be starting to “wind down”, as a No 10 insider reportedly said. Nor are endless lockdowns either desirable or sustainable. But we should not conclude that the worst is inescapable – rather, that effective measures, including the use of masks, distancing, and testing and tracing, are possible and make a vast difference to outcomes.

Vietnam has recorded no deaths and fewer than 400 cases, while the US has seen 3 million cases and more than 130,000 deaths, thanks not only to Donald Trump’s utter failure to prepare his country for coronavirus, but his reckless subsequent determination to push states into premature reopening. Infections are now surging in 41 states. On Friday, Florida recorded 11,433 new cases and saw its highest single day death rate, of 188.

In South America, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has repeatedly trivialised the pandemic and defied guidelines even since becoming infected himself. His country has 1.8m cases. Peru, Chile and Mexico are also badly hit. But Uruguay and Paraguay, which border Brazil, have had fewer than 50 deaths between them.

Though in some countries the apparently low impact of coronavirus will reflect low levels of testing, the US shows that prosperity is far from the only determinant of success. Nonetheless, the difficulties of fighting the pandemic in overcrowded places with malnourished populations lacking basic sanitation or basic healthcare are obvious. Poorer nations will need support to deal with both the pandemic and its broader impact. Hunger and poverty are surging and could kill more people than Covid-19.

Leadership can’t come from the US, as it withdraws from the WHO and attempts to corner supplies. Finding agreement even within the European Union is proving hard. But coronavirus has shown us that “over there” cannot be separated from “over here”. For everyone’s sake, we must recognise and honour our ties.

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The debt that Britain still owes for slavery | Slavery

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Afua Hirsch (The case for British slavery reparations can no longer be brushed aside, 9 July) is right to challenge the shiftless response to the case for reparations. Her argument is fortified by the fact that within living memory Britain, as a colonial power, exploited the forced labour of those in captivity to gain economic advantage. I speak from my own experience as counsel for detainees in the Kenyan emergency group litigation, heard by the high court in London between 2016 and 2018.

During the state of emergency in the 1950s, the colonial power, with the tacit approval of London, implemented a policy of detention of British subjects in camps and “punitive villages”, where men, women and children were forced to work in pursuit of so-called “rehabilitation”. Former British subjects, now elderly Kenyans, gave evidence to the court in 2016, many of them bearing the marks of the harsh regime they were subjected to and having endured a lifetime of infirmity caused by forced labour.

Due to the rigidity of limitation law, the case was always going to be difficult. It failed. The British government has expressed “regret” for abuses in Kenya, but has not apologised, or considered the moral argument for reparations to reflect the benefits of the wealthy society that we still enjoy, off the back of others’ enforced toil.
Mary Ruck
Byrom Street Chambers, Manchester

• Of course we should be shocked by Britain’s history of slave trading. But we can’t change the past; rather, we should look around at present-day Britain. Consider people in Leicester working in crowded conditions with wages that are so low that their work could be considered slavery. Consider the asylum seekers in immigration removal centres, imprisoned for the sin that they asked for asylum here. Consider the instances of inequality for black, Asian and minority ethnic people. Stop destroying statues of the long dead; start lobbying against the hostile environment and for equality.
Dr Charmian Goldwyn

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London

• The call for apologies and reparations only perpetuates the unequal relationship between the two parties that existed at the time. The Nigerian novelist Dillibe Onyeama, one of Eton’s first black students, who suffered “appalling” racism in the 1960s, got it right. When he was invited to receive an apology (Report, 23 June), he said it was not necessary: “It was neither solicited nor expected, it was not fought for. There’s no obligation on the part of Eton College to apologise for anything.”
Fawzi Ibrahim
London

• At least one minister has accepted that Britain owed a debt of reparation. Lord Palmerston, the foreign secretary, told parliament on 9 July 1847 that “this country does owe a great debt of reparation to Africa” and England was “among the first to commit the sin” of “introducing this abomination to the shores of that quarter of the world”. It was, he said, “some atonement” that Britain had led the way in abolishing slavery. Palmerston acknowledged this debt as part of the case for spending on the Africa squadron of the Royal Navy.
James Heartfield
London

• The huge sums paid to 19th-century slave owners fitted into a capitalist system – recompense to named owners for loss of “assets”. A key issue today is finding a suitable form of reparation – such as huge payments into the welfare and education systems of affected nations in Africa and the Caribbean.
Norman Miller
Brighton

• Afua Hirsch makes a powerful case but I suspect the chance of anything reaching as much as “any other business” on a cabinet agenda will have to wait until we have a prime minister of African or African-Caribbean descent.
John Pelling
Coddenham, Suffolk

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