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Tanzania’s Highest Court Upholds Human Rights of Witness Students


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[1]DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania—The Court of Appeal of Tanzania, the country’s highest court, unanimously ruled on July 12, 2013, that schools in the Mbeya region violated the religious freedom of 127 students who were either expelled from school or disciplined after their conscientious refusal to sing the national anthem.


In 2007, the Shikula School Board expelled five Witness youths after they refused to sing the national anthem. Additionally, primary and secondary schools in the region disciplined 122 other Witness youths for the same reason. After appealing unsuccessfully to national education officials and the prime minister, the 127 students sought legal redress in the High Court of Tanzania, the second highest court in the country. The High Court supported the expulsion, though their decision was not unanimous. Subsequently, on December 2, 2010, the students applied to the Court of Appeal. According to court documents, the ruling by the Court of Appeal “quash[es] and set aside” the decision of the High Court and nullifies any of its consequences.


Zadok Mwaipwisi, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Tanzania, states: “We are happy with the court’s decision and the support it has shown for the conscientious stand of these young people. This victory confirms the constitutional right of freedom of religion not only for Jehovah’s Witnesses but for all citizens of Tanzania.”


 


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