Fighting for justice: Day of the Endangered…
We honour the courage and commitment of lawyers around the world who fight for justice, ahead of the Day of the Endangered Lawyer on 24 January.
The president of Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli.
We’re gravely concerned about attacks on lawyers and the independence of the legal profession in Tanzania, which takes the form of disbarments, arrest and detention, and legislative proposals.
Fatma Karume was recently disbarred, following the Advocates' Disciplinary Committee decision of 23 September 2020 for statements made in written submissions as well as comments she made on Twitter.
On 20 September 2019, Ms Karume had been suspended as a lawyer by the Tanzanian High Court, which referred the case of her alleged professional misconduct to the committee.
We’re concerned that the High Court suspended Ms Karume from legal practice, even though that court itself recognised that the matter had to be dealt with by a “proper and unfettered forum” and that she had a right to be heard.
On 10 March 2020, Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court found nine opposition party leaders guilty of criminal offences, including unlawful assembly, rioting and sedition, and sentenced them to payment of a total of 350 million Tanzanian schillings or a five-month prison term.
The lawyer Jebra Kambole represented some of those convicted and allegedly posted a “contemptuous” message on social media regarding Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court. The attorney general of Tanzania filed an application to the Advocates Committee arguing that this post constituted a “criminal act” that had a “seditious intention”.
On 8 August 2020, the lawyer Edson Kilatu allegedly posted a message on Facebook that “malign[ed] the confidence of the Court of Appeal” of Tanzania.
On 8 October 2020, the attorney general applied to the Advocates' Committee to disbar both lawyers for “gross professional misconduct”.
We believe that the disbarment of Ms Karume and the applications to disbar lawyers Mr Kambole and Mr Kilatu represent inappropriate interferences with their work as lawyers, aimed at preventing them from carrying out their professional duties.
Tito Elia Magoti is a lawyer employed as programme officer for mass education by the Legal and Human Rights Centre, an organisation that advocates for human rights and good governance in Tanzania.
Mr Magoti was abducted on 20 December 2019 in Dar es Salaam by four unidentified men. That same day, police authorities acknowledged his detention but did not disclose his whereabouts nor the legal basis for his arrest.
Mr Magoti was denied access to a legal representative and his family. He was interrogated by the police about his use of social media and alleged association with persons who are critical of the government of Tanzania.
He was eventually charged with criminal offences, including “leading organised crime” and money-laundering, for which release on bail is impossible under Tanzanian law (itself in clear violation of Tanzania’s international treaty obligations on pre-trial detention).
Mr Magoti remains in detention, even though the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) in Opinion No. 38/2020 of August 2020 concluded that his arrest and detention were arbitrary.
These attacks on lawyers take place in the context of other initiatives to erode the independence of the legal profession in Tanzania.
We’re especially concerned about recent efforts of the government to restrict the independence of the Tanganyika Law Society through the recent amendment of the Tanganyika Law Society Act, pursuant to the Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 8) Act, 2019.
These amendments include:
We urge the relevant authorities in Tanzania to:
We’ll continue to monitor the situation of Ms Karume, Mr Kambole, Mr Kilatu, and Mr Magoti, as well as that of other lawyers in Tanzania.
8 October 2020 – the attorney general applied to the Advocates Committee to disbar Mr Kambole and Mr Kilatu for “gross professional misconduct”
23 September 2020 – following a decision of the Advocates’ Disciplinary Committee, Ms Karume was disbarred
20 September 2019 – Ms Karume suspended as a lawyer by the Tanzanian High Court
8 August 2020 – Mr Kilatu allegedly posted a message on Facebook that “malign[ed] the confidence of the Court of Appeal” of Tanzania
10 March 2020 – Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court found nine opposition party leaders guilty of criminal offences
20 December 2019 – Mr Magoti was abducted in Dar es Salaam by four unidentified men