Of the 180 cases filed against states at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCPHR), a total of 117 are filed against the Tanzanian government, 94 of which by current prisoners.
The AfCHPR was established under Article 1 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which entered into force in 2005. There are 30 State parties to this protocol, but only eight — of which Tanzania is one — recognise the court’s jurisdiction. The cases are filed by NGOs and individuals but only after all other local options have been exhausted.
According to Solicitor General, Julius Mashamba, who recently visited the court, three major complaints encompassing these cases were raised:
- First, there are complaints against dissatisfaction on the proceedings of criminal cases;
- Second, there are those who complain that they are denied the right to legal assistance; and
- Third there are those who object that, at times, there are delays in getting the case proceedings that could help them file appeals.
He also hinted, however, that the fact that most cases are filed by prisoners might suggest that their rights are not guaranteed by the police force and prison authorities.
While some analysts credit the disproportionate number of cases against Tanzania to the AfCHPR being headquartered in Arusha, the fact that over 70% of these cases involve inmates supports growing concerns about human rights abuses against those who do not support the state.
During the swearing-in ceremony for the new Inspector General of Prisons earlier this year, President John Magufuli instructed that prisoners should work long hours in order to feed themselves. His attitude is even more alarming because he also legitimated the use of whipping prisoners and instructed that they should have no conjugal visits.
Despite the poor treatment of prisoners, the AfCHPR statistics are encouraging because institutional measures are being used to champion for the observance of human rights.