Death penalty for murder; treason

Tanzania: Public Opinion Needed Over Death Penalty, Say Activists

June 5 2012, Source : http://allafrica.com

FINDINGS from the recently launched Tanzania Human Rights 2011 report show that there is a need to seek public opinions on the death penalty.

The Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) Assistant Researcher, Mr Onesmo Olengurumwa, said that of the 6,000 people who were interviewed and data collected from other sources show that people are interested in airing their opinions. “When collecting data, we realised that more people today have been sensitised about the existence of the death penalty and that opinions are divided,” he said.

The findings of the report found that 75 per cent of the people interviewed admitted that the death penalty is not a good punishment while 74 per cent of the same group recommend life imprisonment as the best alternative to death penalty. As of December 2010, there were 295 men and 11 women on death row.

Mr Tete Kafunja, who was on death row for nine years only to be found not guilty in 2009 by the Court of Appeal, said in the report that not knowing when you will be executed was torturous. He said that inmates suspect every prison officer who goes to visit them to be their executioner and that many prisoners suffer from mental and psychological stress.

“The LHRC findings show that most of the people are now informed and capable of giving opinions against the death penalty. With this regard, the LHRC advises the state to go back to the public and use open approaches to get public opinion of the death penalty,” Mr Olengurumwa said.

The 2011 report also cited new trends in human rights violations including the abandonment of children and stealing of infants, a trend that has taken a toll in recent years. Statistics show that there were 186 cases of child abandonment in 2010 with only a slight decrease in 2011 to 176 cases.

There was also a slight decrease in the number of stolen children from 109 in 2010 to 104 children in 2011. The report also saw an alarming rate of child violence in the country where quoting from the UNICEF report on Violence against Children, with many girls experiencing sexual violence before reaching the age of 18.

“For boys of the same age group, 13.4 per cent of them have experienced sexual violence before attaining the age of majority (18 years),” the report said in part. The report also touched on the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) status whereby according to the Tanzania Health Demographic Survey, 2010 the prevalence has gone down from 18 per cent in 1996 to 15 per cent in 2010.

In an opinion survey conducted in Manyoni district in Singida in 2011, it was revealed that the trend of FGM had changed due to fear of criminal prosecution by perpetrators and now opted to mutilate children at an infancy stage during the first month after birth.

The coordinator of the Anti- FGM Network in Manyoni conducted a mini research in primary schools and found out that most students interviewed were unaware of the fact that they were mutilated. “Most of the girls we talked to in primary schools were found to have been mutilated.

We asked them and they all said they did not recall undergoing the knife saying that they assumed that was how they were born,” the report said in part. Mr Olengurumwa said that the LHRC urges the government through its Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to conduct a study at household level in areas mostly affected by the practice.


TANZANIA – More than 640 ‘witches’ lynched in Tanzania last year

May 30, 2012 Source : http://universaltolerance.org

DODOMA, TANZANIA  — More than 640 people suspected of witchcraft were lynched in Tanzania last year, a leading local rights group said on Tuesday, expressing concern about the growing trend of killings. More than 3,000 people have been killed in similar incidents since 2005.

In its annual human rights report, the Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC) said police statistics in the African nation show that at least 642 people suspected of witchcraft were killed between January and November 2011, a significant increase from the at least 579 witchcraft-related deaths in 2010.

“Thousands of people lose their lives in Tanzania because they are suspected of engaging in witchcraft,” the center said in its report, adding that many killings occur in the northern regions of Mwanza and Shinyanga. “Between 2005 and 2011, about 3,000 people were lynched to death by fearful neighbors who believed them to be witches.”

This makes for an average of 500 witchcraft-related deaths in Tanzania each year, but the actual figure is likely higher because many incidents are not reported. Most of the victims are elderly women with red eyes. “The red eye is believed to be a mark of a witch and ignites many of these tragic neighborhood witch hunts,” the LHRC said in its report.

There is a widespread belief in Tanzania that witches can cause poverty, disease, accidents, business failures, famine, earthquakes, infertility and childbirth difficulties. “Therefore, the tendency of witch hunt in Tanzania is highly associated with the occurrence of such predicaments,” the rights group explained.

In addition to the killings, witch hunts also result in discrimination, torture and other forms of violence. In October 2010, a mob of angry men in the Geita Region of Tanzania set fire to the homes of eight families because they were suspected of practicing witchcraft. Because of the witchcraft beliefs, the families were held responsible by the community for misfortune and deaths in the area.

A similar incident was documented by LHRC in the Kigoma Region in May 2010 when a mob burnt more than fifteen houses. “The mob demolished houses, destroyed property and crops such as banana groves, burning of cattle and livestock at Kibwigwa village,” the human rights group said previously.