He Was Persecuted For His Political Beliefs, Human Rights Protected Him

In the last British General Election thousands of people were active in supporting their political party; donating money, delivering leaflets and knocking on doors. There was no violence and no intimidation from our Government.

We are lucky that our democracy functions peacefully and should not take it for granted. Some are not so fortunate, like Mr Hilal. He was an active member of the opposition CUF party in Zanzibar. Due to this he was arrested on orders of the ruling CCM party and tortured. He was locked in a cell full of water so he could not lie down, given electric shocks and hung upside down until his nose bled. His brother (who died in detention), his wife and friends were also harassed.

Mr Hilal came to the United Kingdom and claimed asylum, pointing to the torture he suffered due to his political activism. In Court the Government tried to argue that while Zanzibar may be too dangerous for Mr Hilal, he would not be at risk if he was deported to mainland Tanzania.

The judges rejected this, based on evidence from previous cases and Amnesty International. While Mr Hilal was certainly at more risk in Zanzibar, there was still an unacceptable level of risk in Tanzania. There was a history of CCM officers travelling to Tanzania to harass CUF supporter, and a close relationship between the Zanzibar and Tanzania police.

This case demonstrates that partial protection from torture is not acceptable. If there is a risk of it, even if lessened as with Mr Hilal if he lived in Tanzania, that is unacceptable and the Government cannot deport someone to face this risk. It is also important that we uphold the rights of those seeking to participate in democracy, as democratic freedoms we enjoy here should be enjoyed by all.

This story is a short summary of a legal decision. You can read the full text here