United Nations High Commissioner Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has called for the immediate release of opposition leaders and members detained in Tanzania amid a crackdown on government critics following the disputed October 28 poll.
In a statement on Tuesday, Ms Bachelet said she was disturbed by reports of continued intimidation and harassment against opposition leaders and members in Tanzania in the aftermath of the general elections.
At least 150 opposition leaders and members are said to have been arrested since October 27 in mainland Tanzania and in Zanzibar.
Reports indicate that most of the detainees have been released but at least 18 are still in police custody.
Opposition leaders including Chadema’s presidential candidate Tundu Lissu, Godbless Lema and Freeman Mbowe are among those who were arrested for challenging John Pombe Magufuli’s victory.
The individuals were arrested for planning protests in the country to condemn the Magufuli-led regime for using state machinery to allegedly rig the poll.
Police had warned the opposition leaders in the country saying they would not allow planned protests to go on. They threatened to use force and detain anyone taking part in demonstrations.
Ms Bachelet called on the authorities to ensure people are able to express their grievances without fear of reprisals.
“The tense situation in the country will not be defused by silencing those who challenge the outcome of the elections, but rather through a participatory dialogue,” Ms Bachelet said.
“I urge the Tanzanian authorities to respect and facilitate exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.”
She called on the Magufuli-led government to ensure that security forces and law enforcement officials act according to the rule of law and human rights norms and standards.
The High Commissioner called for prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of human rights violations before, during and after the polls – particularly into the killing of at least 10 people and the injuries sustained by over 50 others in Zanzibar on 26 October.
This is also considering that there were reports of pre-election intimidation and harassment of civil society organisations and journalists.
Ms Bachelet, who served as first female president of Chile, further expressed concern over internet restrictions and the censoring of election-related content in Tanzania before, during and after the poll.
“Free flow of information is critical to any democratic society, and especially so in an electoral context,” the High Commissioner said, adding that any restrictions on information and communication technology must be in line with international human rights laws and standards.
Several Tanzanian leaders including Lema are now seeking asylum in Kenya citing persecution of opposition figures in Tanzania.