Debate Heats Up as Tanzania 's Human Rights Report Goes Public
By Joseph Saronge
The Tanzanian human rights report has been made bare, sparking public debate as to whether to abolish or to retain the death penalty.
Tanzania remains one of the countries that continue to retain the death penalty in its legislation and is under intense pressure from the international community and the United Nation to abolish it.
According to the UN, the international human rights law prohibits the legislation dictating mandatory imposition of the death penalty because it violates the right to life.
The UN recently voted for a moratorium on the use of death penalty, but Tanzania opted to abstain from supporting the resolution against the ban, raising doubts over its commitment.
What is disturbing is the fact that the Tanzanian government conducted a public opinion poll in 2007 and never made public its findings on death row. A recent poll by Legal and Human Rights Center indicate that 81.7 percent of Tanzanians favor the abolition of the death penalty.
It is the high numbers of people in favor of the ratification that is triggering new political wave in Tanzania 's mainland. The local media was recently abuzz with the report's findings, which created a nationwide multiplicity of unheard voices.
The 223-page report dubbed "Tanzania Human Rights Report 2008" funded by Finland, Norway , Sweden and the Ford Foundation, among others, paints a grim picture of the human rights situation in Tanzania, but is positive that progress in realization, promotion and protection of human rights is being made by the administration.
The report points to the fact that there were 286 inmates on death row in Tanzania last year. It also revealed that 14 of the inmates have been on death row for the last 10 years while 35 have been on death list for the last five years. In Tanzania, death penalty is a mandatory sentence for people, who commit murder and is strongly viewed as a deterrent measure.
As the debate continues, many are pointing fingers at the government for dancing around the human rights issue and failing to domesticate the death penalty once and for all.
The rights issue, which continues to stand out as a black mark on the country's score card is a subject of concern as there were reports of extra judicial killings in 2008. However, the Tanzanian government was hailed for apprehending 12 police officers, who were involved in the killings although a verdict is yet to been reached.
Also in the report were acts of mob violence because of lack of confidence on the judicial system, which is perceived to be corrupt and was responsible for lengthy delays in the investigations and prosecution.
The report recommends among other things, repealing of 20 laws that are perceived to be draconian. Mentioned are laws that govern witchcraft in which witches were subject to violence.
The killings associated with witchcraft included murders of albinos. Many of the albinos were targeted by those who believe human parts from albinos would make them wealthy. A total of 80 albinos were murdered in the last three years.
The report also reveals that the Tanzanian has failed to translate English laws into Swahili given that 75 percent of its citizens do not understand English. So far only 1 percent of the country’s laws have been translated into Swahili.
The report also revealed that there were 6531 reported cases of violence against women in 2008. Another report published early this month by Amnesty International corroborated the findings. It also reported that more than 18 percent of women were genitally mutilated and that there were no prosecutions.
In its latest report, Amnesty also lists migrant law abuse, where law enforcing officials carried out beatings and looting in the process of repatriation, as one reason for the high rates of genital mutilations. It also cited harsh prison conditions and delays in court hearings, which was also mentioned by the human rights report of 2008.
Amnesty concludes that death penalty remains part of the penal law and that there are no efforts to repeal it.
As the debate rages, many are looking forward to a day when the death penalty will be put to rest and other human rights issues adhered to.
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