, ARUSHA, Tanzania May 21 – Lawyers representing 10 Kenyans who were charged over robbery with violence in Tanzania have filed a fresh application at the Arusha-based African Court on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), accusing the local court of violating their rights by failing to end their trial within ‘reasonable’ time.
The accused were arrested in Mozambique in January 2006 and taken to Arusha where they were charged over robbery with violence on crimes they allegedly committed in Tanzania and were later convicted but filed appeals which have not been exhausted.
They have now resorted to seek justice at the ACHPR, a continental court established in 2006 by African countries to ensure protection of human and people’s rights on the continent.
Through their lawyers, they argue that there was no extradition proceedings commenced against them before they were transferred in a military plane to Arusha where they were allegedly beaten up and tortured by Tanzanian police before they were charged.
“Ten years later, their cases are still pending in court, this is a trial that was dragged for the longest time which is against the interest of justice,” said Don Deya, a lawyer from the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) which is representing them pro-bono.
In his application, Deya told a bench of nine judges at the continental court hearing the case that his clients “have suffered and will continue to suffer in prison unless their case is fast tracked to enable them get justice.”
“It is my prayer that this court declares that the state (Tanzania) has violated their rights for lack of trial within reasonable time and a further declaration that the state has violated their rights for lack of legal representation,” he pleaded Thursday before the court’s Vice President Elsie Thomson who is presiding in the case.
Of the 10 arrested in Mozambique, three have since been acquitted for lack of evidence while two others died in jail, in their quest for justice.
They denied all the charges facing them, terming them a fabrication while insisting that they were in Mozambique on a business trip. Tanzanian authorities however, insist they are dangerous criminals who had terrorized residents here and lined up witnesses to disprove their claims.
Tanzanian authorities argued in court that the accused persons were never tortured in jail and that their prolonged cases are due to the appeals they filed.
“The issues they are raising are new because they were not contained in their initial applications in the national level courts. The reason the trials took long is because investigations were conducted in three jurisdictions Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique,” said Nkasori Sarakika, Tanzania’s acting director of human rights department at the Attorney General’s office. “It should be taken into consideration that these were serious and complex cases and therefore we consider this application quite late.”
She said that the cases facing the Kenyans were long completed and that what was pending was their appeals.
The applicants’ lawyers are now seeking for reparations should the judges rule in their favour.
“The applicants are the authors of their own destiny, we refute their allegations because they are arguing that the court should prioritize their human rights than procedures yet they have been filing applications that delayed the process,” she told the judges in her submission, and insisted that they had legal representation throughout the trial.