This report discusses evidence of a pattern of human rights violation emerging in parts of Africa in which governments publicly committed to political pluralism adopt methods of curbing domestic opposition and criticism designed to minimize international disapproval and to keep intact their democratic reputations. Certain types of criminal charge are used increasingly frequently by governments seeking to restrict peaceful political activity or dissent. They include sedition, contempt of court, defamation, possession of classified information and holding meetings or demonstrations without official permission. Those victimized are often those at the heart of efforts to build strong civil societies: journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, intellectuals, opposition politicians and other activists. The countries concerned in this report – Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe – have been chosen because of their geographical proximity and because, as former British colonies, their legal systems have much in common.