The killing of albino people in some parts of the country continued and the government’s overall response remained inadequate. Thousands of Burundian refugees complained of government efforts to force them to return to their country despite fears of persecution upon return. There was a high prevalence of violence against women and girls, and most perpetrators were not held accountable.
Talks between the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party and the opposition Civic United Front regarding power-sharing and legal and electoral reform in semi-autonomous Zanzibar, which broke down in 2008, were not restarted. This raised fears of political violence in Zanzibar during the forthcoming political campaigns for the general elections scheduled for 2010.
Discrimination – attacks on albino people
Killings and mutilation of albino people continued, driven by cultural beliefs that albino body parts will make people rich. Reports indicated that over 20 albino people were killed in 2009, bringing the total to over 50 in two years. Although dozens of people suspected of involvement in the murder and mutilation of albino people were arrested, cases concerning only two killings were concluded in court. The first, in September, found three men guilty of murder; the second, in November, convicted four men. Police investigations of such cases remained slow and the overall government effort to prevent attacks on albino people was inadequate.
In July the UN Human Rights Committee issued its concluding observations after considering Tanzania’s fourth periodic report submitted under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee expressed concerns about the continued high prevalence of gender-based violence, in particular domestic violence and the lack of effective and concrete measures to combat female genital mutilation; the under-resourcing of the human rights institution – the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance; the ill-treatment of detainees by law enforcement officials; and the failure to recognize and protect the rights of minorities and Indigenous peoples, including in relation to the negative impact of projects such as game parks on the traditional way of life of these communities. The Committee also noted the government’s failure to implement its previous recommendations.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
More than 36,000 Burundian refugees in Mtabila refugee camp in western Tanzania were at risk of forcible return. Many of the refugees had their homes set on fire or were threatened with arson by individuals acting under instructions of Tanzanian authorities. Despite evidence of several attempts to forcibly return refugees, the authorities denied the use of coercion and said that the return process was voluntary as part of a tripartite agreement between the governments of Tanzania and Burundi and the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. The government announced that it was committed to the closure of the camp and the return home of the refugees by the end of the year. However, very few refugees registered for the voluntary repatriation exercise. No procedures were in place to assess any individual claims by refugees and asylum-seekers of genuine and well-founded fears of persecution upon return to their home country.
Freedom of expression
The government lifted the ban it had imposed in October 2008 on the weekly MwanaHALISI newspaper. However, a number of journalists, in both mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar, reported threats and complained of harassment in relation to media stories about high-ranking individual politicians.
The redrafted Media Services Bill, which regulates the media and includes input from civil society on a 2007 draft bill, had not been published or submitted to parliament by the end of the year.
Violence against women and girls
Reports on violence against women and girls, including domestic violence, marital rape and marriage of young girls, remained widespread. Female genital mutilation continued to be practised, including in some urban areas.
Local civil society organizations recorded a very low rate of prosecutions for perpetrators of gender-based violence.
Right to health
The maternal mortality ratio continued to be high, with between 8,000 and 13,000 women dying every year, according to reports. This was attributed mainly to an acute dearth of health facilities and qualified medical professionals, particularly in rural areas.
Prison conditions – both on the mainland and in Zanzibar – continued to be harsh and there were reports of torture and other ill-treatment. Local human rights groups recorded a marginal decrease in prison overcrowding and noted that the problem was mainly due to delays in adjudicating court cases and an inadequate use by courts of non-custodial sentences. According to the Legal and Human Rights Centre and Zanzibar Legal Services Centre, almost half of the prison population comprised pre-trial detainees.
Courts continued to hand down death sentences. As of May, the government stated that 292 prisoners were being held under sentence of death.
A petition filed by three civil society organizations in 2008 challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty remained pending in the High Court.
Amnesty International visit/reports
- An Amnesty International delegate visited mainland Tanzania in October.
- Four Tanzanians sentenced to death for killing an albino man, 3 November 2009
- Tanzania: Burundian refugees must not be intimidated to return home, 29 June 2009