Dar es Salaam. Workers of the leading human rights body, the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), Tito Magoti and Theodory Giyani, are continuing to languish in remand prison for over six months now, raising concern over the functionality of Tanzania’s criminal justice system.
The two were arrested in December last year and charged at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court with three counts of economic sabotage and unbailable money laundering charges.
Since then the criminal case number 137 of 2019 against them has stagnated at the court. It has been mentioned and adjourned 14 times. Prosecutors have been pleading for adjournment every time the case comes up for mention because investigations into the matter have not been completed.
The court unsuccessfully reminded prosecutors of completing the investigations to allow a full trial.
“From what I know there is no case against them (Tito and Giyani). These are the consequences of arresting and charging individuals without having evidence,” says LHRC executive director Anna Henga. She says Magoti’s case and many others of similar nature have presented a clear case for Tanzania to overhaul its criminal justice system.
“These cases means our criminal justice system needs urgent and major reforms. If one is arrested and investigation are not completed in two months, let the case be dismissed or we should at least make all offences bailable,” she says.
Reports over the arrest of Magoti and Giyani went viral on social media on December 20, 2019 and days later, after rights organisations raised their voice over their wherabouts, the police came out to confirm they were holding the duo.
“Even after admitting that they were holding them, the police denied them their right for bail or legal representation. They were held for five days without charges,” says LHRC boss. In the afternoon of December, 24, the two were arraigned at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court and charged with three counts including that of money laundering.
Since then, the case against them has been mentioned 14 times over incomplete investigations.Defence lawyers have repeatedly pleaded with the court to exercise its power to administer justice to the accused, considering that the case against them is not bailable and that prosecution are taking too long to complete the investigations for the full trial to start.
“The principles of natural and criminal justice say every person should be considered innocent until a court of law proves otherwise. Delay of justice is one of the biggest challenges preventing wananchi from getting their rights including the right to freedom and equality before the law,” she says.
Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) president Rugemeleza Nshalla was not ready to discuss a matter pending in court. “I hope that their lawyers are arguing these matters in court,” he said.