Dar es Salaam.Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) has condemned the act by the police officers to raid and seize computers from an office used by the Tanzanian Civil Society Consortium on Election Observation (Tacceo).
The human rights lobby group insists that what the police did was against the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 and the country’s constitution.
Speaking at a news conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday THRDC national coordinator Onesmo Olengurumwa said the decision by the law enforcers to storm the TACCEO offices was prompted by politicians who participated in the just concluded General Election.
“Our investigation has established that there was direct communication between the police and the directorate of Civil Societies in the ministry of Community Development, Gender and Children on Thursday when the police raided the offices,’’ he said.
On the same day according to him, police also went to the offices of the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP) but they failed to enter the offices because there were only security guards.
On Thursday, armed police officers stormed TACCEO centre, located within the offices of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) at Mbezi Beach in the city and grabbed 26 computers, 2 lap tops and 36 mobile phones ostensibly for investigation purposes.
On that day, 36 data clerks were arrested and interrogated at the central police station before they were released on bail. According to Mr Olengurumwa, they expect to be dragged to court today.
Police said the clerks were arrested under Section 16 of the Cyber Crime Act alleging that they were collecting and disseminating presidential election results contrary to the law that gives that mandate only to the National Electoral Commission (NEC). Mr Olengurumwa said the centre was not doing parallel votes tabulation but it was collecting different election reports from election observers who were deployed in different regions.
“It should also be understood that collecting election results that are pinned at different polling stations and that reading them is not a criminal offence and we advise our members to continue doing that in the coming elections.”
THRDC called upon the electoral body to observe the laws of the country and not allow interference from security organs and government officials.
“We also request the International Observers to intervene when the laws of the country are being violated including blatant human rights abuses,’’ he added.
Mr Olengurumwa further asked the law enforcers to avoid being used by the political class, insisting that doing so was denying people their rights and limiting freedom of civil societies as they discharge their duties.