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HRF Succeeds in UN Petition — Tanzania Condemned for Unlawful Detention of Theodory Giyan

NEW YORK (August 30, 2021) — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) welcomes the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s (UNWGAD) determination that the December 2019 arrest and subsequent imprisonment of Theodory Faustine Giyan in Tanzania was arbitrary and in violation of international law. In a decision published last week, the UNWGAD concluded that Tanzania had failed to establish any legal basis for Mr. Giyan’s detention, and that his wrongful charges and continued detention violated international law fair trial principles.

“We are pleased that the Working Group has formally recognized the arbitrary nature of Mr. Giyan’s arrest and detention by Tanzanian police, and the miscarriage of justice he suffered as a result of this ill-treatment,” said HRF International Legal Associate Michelle Gulino. “The Tanzanian government must cease its steady erosion of due process and reverse its pattern of serious restrictions on the freedoms of expression and association, particularly as they relate to opposition activists and the media.”

Theodory Faustine Giyan is a software developer from Tanzania who was unlawfully detained in December 2019. On December 18, 2019, unidentified police officers arrived at Mr. Giyan’s home in Dar es Salaam, and arrested him without an arrest warrant. They handcuffed, blindfolded, and abducted him, forcing him into a civilian vehicle, without informing him of the reason for his arrest. Mr. Giyan’s phone was later used to send fabricated text messages to deceive his friend, Tanzanian human rights defender Tito Magoti, resulting in the subsequent abduction and detention of Mr. Magoti, as well.

Mr. Giyan was brought before the Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court in Dar es Salaam, where he was charged with three counts of money laundering and organized crime. These charges meant that Mr. Giyan was not eligible for bail, resulting in his pre-trial arbitrary detention, along with Mr. Magoti. Both Mr. Giyan and Mr. Magoti were only released after making a plea bargain and paying a fine in January 2021, over one year after their initial detention, and following several adjournments to their trial.

Last week, the UNWGAD published a decision declaring that Mr. Giyan’s detention was arbitrary under international law, and that it contravened Articles 3, 8, 9, 10, and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 2(3), 9, and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The UNWGAD concluded that Mr. Giyan’s arrest and detention lacked a legal basis and were therefore arbitrary. The UNWGAD also found that the circumstances leading to his arrest “entailed a total or partial non-observance of the international norms relating to the right to a fair trial,” and that his detention post-arrest was also in violation of his right to a fair trial.

HRF’s Impact Litigation program provides international legal representation to prisoners of conscience whose cases are emblematic examples of the brutality of dictatorship. HRF’s Center for Law and Democracy regularly submits emblematic cases of arbitrarily imprisoned dissidents and pro-democracy activists to international judicial and semi-judicial bodies of the United Nations system and multiple other special procedures under the UN Human Rights Council.