Arrest and shooting of Tanganyika Law Society president

Who we wrote to

The president of the United Republic of Tanzania, Dr John Pombe Magufuli.

We co-wrote the letter with the Bar Council and the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales.

What’s the issue

We’re concerned over incidents involving lawyers in Tanzania and apparent breaches of international law.

Mr Tundu Antiphas Mughwai Lissu is the president of the Tanganyika Law Society, as well as:

  • Member of Parliament for Singida East
  • chief whip and legal adviser of the CHADEMA political opposition party

On 7 September 2017, Mr Lissu was shot multiple times in his car at his residence in Dodoma by unknown gunmen and was seriously injured. We understand that no arrests have been made so far.

We're very concerned about this crime and about its apparent context. On 22 February 2017, we understand that the minister of constitutional affairs and justice, the Hon Dr Harrison George Mwakyembe, suggested that the Tanganyika Law Society could be de-registered because of "political activism".

The government has proposed to amend legal practice legislation with the effect of divesting primary regulation of the legal profession from the Bar and judiciary to the Ministry of Justice.

Less than a month ago, two bombs were detonated at the gates of the IMMMA law firm.

We understand that one of the partners of the law firm has been vocal about the decline in the rule of law in Tanzania and has referred to the alleged interference by state authorities with the exercise of the legal profession. The same partner seems to have legally represented Mr Lissu at a previous bail hearing.

We understand that on 19 July 2017, plain-clothed policemen sought to arrest Mr Lissu at his residence in Dar es Salaam for critical remarks allegedly made about the government at a press conference on 17 July 2017.

Despite reassurances that this arrest would not be carried out, he was arrested at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, while on his way to a meeting in Kigali, Rwanda. No grounds were given by the police upon his arrest.

Mr Lissu was detained, brought before the Resident Magistrates Court of Dar es Salaam and charged with hate speech. After a week in detention, he was granted bail, but the charges remain.

In August 2017, Mr Lissu was arrested again. This arrest related to statements that he had allegedly made concerning the seizure of an airplane as security for an unpaid debt of the Tanzanian government to a Canadian company.

What we asked for

We urge the relevant authorities to:

  • immediately carry out an independent and effective investigation of the facts and circumstances of the shooting of Mr Lissu, as well as other crimes being committed against members of the legal profession with a view to prosecuting those responsible in accordance with international standards of due process
  • revoke any charges pending against Mr Lissu, unless sufficient evidence is available, and that evidence is served upon Mr Lissu and transparent due process with recourse to appeal is followed
  • fulfil Tanzania’s international obligations, protect lawyers and ensure that they can perform their professional activities without facing intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference

Timeline

22 February 2017 – suggestion was raised by the minister of constitutional affairs and justice that the Tanganyika Law Society could be de-registered because of "political activism"

19 July 2017 – plain-clothed policemen sought to arrest Mr Lissu at his residence in Dar es Salaam

August 2017 – Mr Lissu was arrested again in relation to statements that he had allegedly made concerning the seizure of an airplane as security for an unpaid debt of the Tanzanian Government to a Canadian company

7 September 2017 – Mr Lissu was shot multiple times in his car at his residence in Dodoma by unknown gunmen