The SAHRDN in collaboration with several civil society organizations (CSOs) working to promote and defend human rights across the globe, including in Tanzania, made an urgent request for the AU and UN special mechanisms to intervene in the arrest and detention of human rights defender, Tito Elia Magoti. The SAHRDN and other civil society organisations were not only concerned that Tito’s arrest and detention is in retaliation for his legitimate human rights work but that the manner of his arrest, indicates a pattern by the Tanzanian State of disregarding due process procedures. The SAHRDN and other civil society organisations were further concerned that the charges against Tito, more specifically that of “money laundering” which automatically denies him the right to bail under Tanzanian law, poses an existential threat to all human rights defenders, journalists and civil society in Tanzania. Those charged under this law, regardless of the frivolousness of the allegations, can be indefinitely detained without trial.
Tito, a young lawyer and Program Officer with the Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC), was reportedly abducted by four unidentified men on December 20, 2019, handcuffed and driven off in what seemed to be a civilian vehicle. LHRC is a Tanzanian based organization that works to promote, reinforce and safeguard human rights and good governance in the country. Members of LHRC and other human rights organizations frantically visited various police stations in search of Tito but were unable to locate him. Everything was pointing to an abduction or possible enforced disappearance. In the evening of December 20, 2019, the Dar es Salaam Zone Police Commander, SACP Lazaro Mambosasa, eventually released a press report indicating that he had not been abducted but was in police custody with several other arrested individuals. No mention was made of where he was being detained or what allegations he was facing. Police Commander Mambosasa’s statement was subsequently contradicted by the Regional Police Commander for Kinondoni region, where Mr. Magoti was arrested, alleging that he had no knowledge of the arrest.
Faced with this threat to a human rights defender, the SAHRDN coordinated with other civil society organisations to file an urgent appeal with a number of mechanisms at the AU and UN that deal with the rights of human rights defenders.