Tanzanian police illegally detain human rights lawyers for 'promoting homosexuality'

A group of human rights lawyers and activists who were researching a case against the Tanzanian government has been illegally detained after police accused them of “promoting homosexuality”.

Among those arrested were three lawyers from the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (Isla), a human rights legal organization, and nine members of Community Health and Education Services and Advocacy (Chesa), a Tanzanian sex workers’ rights organization. The manager of the hotel where the arrest took place has also been detained.

Police issued a press statement saying 13 people had been arrested for committing the offense of promoting homosexuality.

The lawyers were detained again on Friday, and all 13 people have since been held without charge. Under Tanzanian, law the maximum permitted period of detention without charge is 24 hours.

There has been a crackdown on homosexuality in Tanzania over the past 18 months, although the country has no law against homosexuality or its promotion.

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“People are being arrested almost every day,” said LGBT+ campaigner James Wandera Ouma in an interview with The Guardian. “I’ve been arrested 17 times. It’s straightforward harassment and intimidation.”

In October 2016, the Tanzanian government announced a on ban HIV/Aids outreach projects aimed at gay men, and closed U.S.-funded programs that provide testing, condoms and medical care to the gay community. The countrywide closure of private HIV clinics began soon afterwards.

State repression of homosexuality has been accompanied by a wider crackdown on the Tanzanian media. A number of media outlets have since been shut down for reasons including coverage of HIV issues, linking ministers to political scandals, and insulting the president.

The Gayly – October 26, 2017 @ 12:45 p.m. CST.