Police Raid on LEAT, a Tanzanian NGOPublished by MAC on 2001-11-25
Urgent Action - NGO Offices Raided by Police, LEAT President Arrested in Tanzania
25th November 2001
From: Nick Hildyard - written to UK-based & International NGOs
Since our meeting with Lissu, there has been a new - and extremely disturbing - development. On Saturday night (24th November 2001), the Tanzanian police raided the office of the Lawyer's Environmental Action Team, the group for which Lissu works, and arrested LEAT's President Rugemeleza Nshala. As of the time of writing, Mr. Rugemeleza is still in jail. We understand that he is facing sedition charges. The police also searched Lissu's house, turning it upside down.
In what would appear to be an infringement of lawyer-client privilege, the police have apparently seized evidence given to LEAT by its clients - the families of the small scale miners.
The raids follow wide publicity in the Tanzanian press of LEAT's investigation of the Bulyanhulu case. Last Monday (November 19th), LEAT had held a press conference in which it reiterated its call for an International commission of inquiry to investigate the alleged killings at Bulyanhulu in 1996.
The conference came a week after LEAT wrote to the Director of Criminal Investigation telling him that it did not think the police force had any moral authority to re-investigate the killings given their alleged complicity in the crimes. It had also declined to hand over the police videotape which it had obtained unless and until the police provided the information it claimed was available that disproved the
allegations of the killings.
We believe that the police raid is an attempt to intimidate LEAT into silence. LEAT is demanding the immediate release of Mr. Rugemeleza, a demand which we support.
Lissu has asked for the follow support actions:
- Please write to the UK Executive Director at the World Bank. Text from a specimen letter is printed below.
- Please RING the Tanzanian High Commission. The telephone number is: 207 499 8951 Please also fax a polite protest letter - again a specimin letter can be obtained from Nick Hildyard.
Thanks for your support,
James Wolfensohn, President
The World Bank
1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
Dear Mr. Wolfensohn,
Re: Bulyanhulu Gold Mine, Tanzania: Arrest of LEAT lawyer
I am writing to express grave concern at the arrest on Saturday 24th November 2001, of Mr. Rugemeleza Nshala, President of the Lawyers' Environmental Action Team (LEAT) and of Mr. Augustine Mrema, Chairman of the Tanzanian Labor Party. LEAT is a Tanzanian NGO, which has been actively investigating allegations of widespread human rights abuses associated with the Bulyanhulu Gold Mine in Tanzania. Specifically, LEAT has been investigating allegations of killings, illegal evictions and destruction of livelihoods when the site was cleared of artisanal miners in August 1996. As you know, MIGA approved in 2000 a US $172 million MIGA political risk insurance to Barrick Gold Corporation, owner of the mine since 1999 for the mine's development.
We now understand that Mr. Nshala has been released on police bond but is required to report daily to the Dar es Salaam Central Police Station. We also understand that he may be facing charges of sedition. The police also searched the house of Mr. Tundu Lissu, a lawyer with LEAT who has been speaking on this matter internationally, including in Washington with MIGA staff. All indications are that the police would have arrested Mr. Lissu had he been in the country. In the course of these raids, the police reportedly seized evidence given to LEAT by its clients -the families of the small scale miners -- violating lawyer-client privilege and putting these families potentially at risk for police intimidation.
The arrests and raids follow LEAT's recent efforts on the Bulyanhulu case. In mid-November, LEAT wrote to the Director of Criminal Investigation, expressing its view that the police did not have the moral authority to re-investigate the killings, given their alleged complicity in the crimes. LEAT also declined to hand over the police videotape of the events that it had obtained, until the police provided the information they claimed disprove the allegations of the killings.
On November 19th, LEAT held a press conference in which it reiterated its call for an international commission of inquiry to investigate the alleged killings at Bulyanhulu. LEAT is demanding that any charges against Mr. Nshala, Mr. Lissu, Mr. Mrema and all others arrested in relation to this case be dropped, that the NGO status of LEAT be protected, and that an independent commission of inquiry into the Bulyanhulu allegations be set up immediately. We support these demands.
We believe that the police raid is an attempt to intimidate LEAT and other proponents of the commission of inquiry into silence. In our view, the arrest and raids constitutes a serious violation of the fundamental human right to free speech, a free press, and to unfettered participation in the political process. Given that the arrest and the raids relate directly to LEAT's investigation of a MIGA-backed project, we believe that the World Bank should intervene with the Tanzanian authorities to express its concern and call for a halt to this harassment. We are asking you as President of the World Bank Group and MIGA to use your office to ensure that Mr Nshala's, Mr. Lissu's and the others' human rights are protected and that a thorough, independent and public investigation is carried out.
We thank you in advance for your attention and look forward to your soonest reply,