The international rights organisation Amnesty International has said a decision by Tanzania to withdraw an article which allows its citizens and NGOs to sue it at the African Court on Human and People’s Rights risks deepening repression.
In a statement, Amnesty said the withdrawal denies individuals and organisations access to justice.
“This move effectively blocks individuals and NGOs in the country from directly going to the court to seek redress for human rights violations in what is clearly a cynical attempt to evade accountability,” Japhet Biegon, Amnesty International’s Africa Advocacy Coordinator said.
Tanzania, which hosts the court in the Northern city of Arusha, will become the second country after Rwanda to withdraw the article.
The move is likely to raise concerns over the country whose human rights record has been under scrutiny in the last few years.
In a letter to the African Union, whose member states established the court, Tanzania explained that it was withdrawing the article because the court had failed to uphold reservations that the country made about allowing individuals and NGOs to sue it.
Almost 40% of the cases to have been filed at the court are against Tanzania, despite 51 other African countries being signatory.
“The decision has been reached after the Declaration has been implemented contrary to the reservations submitted by the United Republic of Tanzania when making the Declaration”, said Palamagamba Kabudi, minister for foreign affairs.
Tanzania made a declaration to the African Court in 2010 that individuals and NGOs should only refer to it once all domestic legal remedies have been exhausted.
Amnesty International believes Tanzania’s move is the latest sign of growing hostility towards human rights and rights defenders. The organisation has challenged the country to reconsider its decision.