Covering events from January - December 2004
Reconciliation (Muafaka) talks continued between the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (Party of the Revolution, CCM) and the opposition Civic United Front (CUF). This helped to control political tensions in semi-autonomous Zanzibar. Some electoral reforms were implemented in anticipation of elections due in October 2005. A youth and a CCM militia leader were killed in Pemba island where there were several incidents of pre-election violence in December.
In August, Zanzibar abolished the legal penalty of corporal punishment, still applied on the mainland. Some other issues of legal and judicial reform in Zanzibar were not addressed.
Violence against women
Female genital mutilation continued to be widely practised in several regions, despite a 1998 law criminalizing this harmful traditional practice for girls under 18 and imposing a penalty of up to 15 years’ imprisonment. No prosecutions were reported, but there were extensive awareness-raising and campaigning activities by non-governmental organizations.
Killings of elderly women accused of witchcraft were still reported. Local leaders were among 20 people charged with murdering women they said were witches in Iringa district in the south in
Freedom of association and expression
Activities of opposition parties, non-governmental organizations and the privately owned media were still restricted in Zanzibar, where the government continued to deny registration to the Zanzibar Association for Human Rights. International and national media groups criticized the 2003 Media Regulation Act for failing to protect media rights sufficiently.
Laws against lesbian and gay people
A law enacted in Zanzibar in August created the new offences of “lesbianism”, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment, and of entering into, arranging, celebrating or living in a same-sex marriage or union, punishable by up to seven years in prison. The maximum penalty for a male homosexual act continued to be a five-year prison term.
The Penal Code of the United Republic of Tanzania, applicable on the mainland, continued to provide a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment for a male homosexual act. Sexual acts between women were not criminalized.
There were no known arrests under these laws in 2004 or recent years.
The trial of a suspect in the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in the capital, Dar es Salaam, in which 11 Tanzanians were killed, concluded in late 2004 with the acquittal of the accused.
Human rights commission
The Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance continued its public inquiry into evictions and police brutality in Serengeti district in 2001.
Several death sentences for murder were reported during the year. In August, 389 people, including two in Zanzibar, were under sentence of death, following presidential commutation of 100 sentences in April 2002. There had been no executions in Tanzania since 1995. Prisoners on death row were held in virtual solitary confinement, with permanent artificial lighting for 24 hours a day, and allowed religious books only. They were reported to be frequently abused and intimidated by guards. Food and medical treatment were poor.
At the end of December, 16 prisoners on death row in Ukonga prison in Dar es Salaam had been on hunger strike for two weeks, started in protest at beatings and harsh conditions.
During the year, Tanzanian officials, reportedly in cooperation with Burundian officials, urged the estimated 700,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzania to return home. After fleeing Burundi between 1972 and 2004, about half of them were living in sites for refugees. Officials sometimes threatened refugees with forcible return if they did not go voluntarily. Security concerns in Burundi, conflicts over land ownership, limited access to education, health and housing, and the slow pace of political transition and army reform discouraged many from returning. According to reports, more than 90,000 refugees returned voluntarily during 2004 but some were forced to return, such as 68 Burundians in Ngara region in October.
Rwandese refugees were no longer given refugee status by the Tanzanian government. For those who met the criteria for recognition as refugees, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)was able to provide international protection under its mandate. Fewer than 200 UNHCR-recognized Rwandese refugees remained in Tanzania. Some of the hundreds who dispersed across the countryside during the repatriation of Rwandese refugees in 2002 and 2003 returned unofficially to the refugee camps. Without official registration or ration cards, they faced a precarious existence.
AI country visits
AI representatives visited Tanzania to conduct research on the treatment of Burundian and Rwandese asylum-seekers and to launch a report about Rwandese refugees in the Great Lakes region (see Rwanda entry).