UN rights chief calls on Tanzania to probe alleged election-related abuses

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday called for prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of human rights violations before, during and after the polls in Tanzania – particularly into the killing of at least 10 people and the injuries sustained by over 50 others in Zanzibar October 26.

Ms. Bachelet said she was disturbed by reports of continuing intimidation and harassment against opposition leaders and members in the aftermath of the general elections.

Bachelet also urged authorities to ensure people are able to express their grievances without fear of reprisals.

“The tense situation in the country will not be defused by silencing those who challenge the outcome of the elections, but rather through a participatory dialogue,” Bachelet said.

“I urge the Tanzanian authorities to respect and facilitate exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.”

Police officials warned publicly on October 31 that they would not allow protests to go ahead, citing alleged plans to cause chaos, and they threatened to use force and detain anyone taking part in demonstrations.

Reports indicate that at least 150 opposition leaders and members have been arrested since October 27 in mainland Tanzania and in Zanzibar.

Police officials have stated that the individuals arrested were planning violent protests. While most have been subsequently released, at least 18 reportedly remain in custody.

The High Commissioner called for the immediate release of those detained for exercising their human rights. She called on the Government of Tanzania to ensure that security forces and law enforcement officials act according to the rule of law and human rights norms and standards.

Under international law, there is a presumption in favour of considering assemblies to be peaceful, the High Commissioner stressed.

These developments follow reported pre-election intimidation and harassment of civil society organisations and journalists, as well as allegations of police brutality against opposition members and supporters on the day of the election.

The High Commissioner also expressed concern at Internet restrictions, including the blocking of many social media and messaging platforms, and the censoring of election-related content.

“Free flow of information is critical to any democratic society, and especially so in an electoral context,” the High Commissioner said, adding that any restrictions on information and communication technology must be in line with international human rights laws and standards. (Source: OHCHR)

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