Seanad debates

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Commencement Matters

Human Rights

10:30 am

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Chair for allowing me to raise the deterioration of the human rights of the LGBT community in Tanzania. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon. I think we will all agree it is absolutely appalling and shocking that LGBT people are being targeted and arrested in contravention of many international human rights agreements to which Tanzania has signed up. It is important to put this in context. A special task force has been convened to round up members of the LGBT community. LGBT people in Tanzania are facing increasing threats. Members of the LGBT community have been arrested, targeted, harassed and charged with unrelated offences. Since 2015, under the regime of President Magufuli, there has been a deterioration in human rights and the rule of law in Tanzania. I put it to the Minister of State that it is a disgrace that this is being allowed to happen. It is a contravention of justice. I am calling on our Government to intervene at every level to protest the establishment of a task force under the remit of the governor of Dar es Salaam. The Tanzanian Government has said that it is his opinion, but having an opinion does not give a person the right to have a 17-member or ten-member task force. It is wrong to call for the outing and arrest of LGBT people.

I know that Mr. Paul Sherlock is a very proactive ambassador in the region. I am aware that Tanzania is one of the fastest growing countries in Africa. I welcome the EU's decision to recall its ambassador to Tanzania. I am pleased that the EU is considering a review of its relationship with Tanzania. I do not necessarily think that recalling ambassadors is always the right thing to do, but on this occasion there would be merit in our Government intervening to make its case and state its position. I appreciate that the Tánaiste has written to the Tanzanian Government, but our approach must be about more than writing a letter. We must bring people with us.

I am glad the Minister of State is here. I know he is very proactive. It is worrying that the governor is looking for reports of gay people. This is not just about gay people, it is also about people who work in HIV clinics and non-governmental organisations to promote human rights. The overarching strategy that is emanating from Tanzania seems to involve violating privacy rights in a way that infringes on basic human rights. We have international agreements which must be upheld. I thank the Minister of State for being here. I look forward to his reply.


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