Swaziland human rights activists jailed

This video says about itself:

Thalani Maseko, an attorney from Swaziland, will discuss the use of his country’s Suppression of Terrorism Act to stifle political protest against the rule of King Mswati III, and his efforts to defend those who have fallen foul of that law. – June 8th 2011.

From the International Commission of Jurists:

Swaziland: ICJ condemns the conviction of celebrated human rights lawyer and prominent journalist on charges of contempt of court

The ICJ is appalled by the decision of the High Court in Swaziland to convict Thulani Rudolph Maseko and Bheki Makhubu on contempt of court charges.

The Court’s ruling and events that transpired before it fall short of Swaziland’s international obligations to respect the rights to freedom of expression and fair trial, the ICJ says.

Charges brought against Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu emanate from articles published in February and March 2014, in which they questioned circumstances surrounding the arrest of government vehicle inspector, Vincent Gwebu.

The right of freedom of expression is a right which is foundational to free societies.

Its respect is recognized as a necessary condition for the realization of transparency and accountability that are essential for the promotion, protection and realization of human rights.

It includes the right to impart information to others in almost any form. It covers both facts and opinions.

It protects, subject to carefully prescribed and narrowly interpreted restrictions, not only the substance of ideas or information expressed, but also the tone or manner in which they are conveyed.

The conviction of Thulani and Bheki shows that the law as implemented in Swaziland does not adequately protect the right to freedom of expression and that it unduly shields the courts from public scrutiny.

The ICJ and others have consistently raised concern that the arrest of the two human rights defenders, their detention and proceedings against them were inconsistent with international standards.

The legality of the arrest, detention and charges against Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu were successfully challenged before High Court Judge Mumcy Dhlamini, resulting in their release from custody for two days.

However, the men were rearrested and detained when the State appealed Judge Mumcy Dhlamini’s ruling. But were retained in custody when the two had cross-appealed that decision.

Their trial was also been characterized by numerous, often-long postponements.

This has meant that the two have spent more than 4 months in custody for an offence that ordinarily carries a 30-day sentence.

The High Court’s ruling raises concern about the ability and willingness of the authorities in Swaziland to safeguard the fundamental right to freedom of expression and guarantee in the circumstance the right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial court.

It raises the prospect that in the absence of the right to an effective appeal before an independent and impartial court, Thulani Maseko and will be forced to seek redress through regional or international mechanisms.

In the circumstances, the ICJ recommends that the authorities of Swaziland review the law governing criminal contempt of court and its implementation and bring them into line with international standards guaranteeing freedom of expression.

The ICJ further recommends that Thulani and Bheki be immediately released from custody on the basis of time already spent in custody.


Arnold Tsunga, Director, ICJ Africa Regional Programme, Arnold.tsunga(a)icj.org

Martin Okumu-Masiga, Deputy Director, ICJ Africa Regional Programme, Martin.okumu-masiga(a)icj.org

6 thoughts on “Swaziland human rights activists jailed

  1. Swaziland’s Communist Party yesterday condemned the imprisonment of Nation magazine editor Bheki Makhubu and writer and human-rights lawyer Thulani Maseko as unjust and illegal.

    It said both men were defenders of freedom of speech and an independent judiciary in Swaziland and had already been detained for two years awaiting sentencing.

    The party said the detentions were clearly a case of King Mswati III intervening “in his usual manner to use the legal system as his personal sjambok (whip).

    “One has only to read the judgment, delivered on July 25 … to get a measure of how devoid of justice, objectivity and decency the Swazi legal system is.”

    The communists emphasised that Nation had been a courageous publication exposing the corruption of the country’s tinkhundla (constituency) system.

    They warned the attack on press freedom was a clear reminder to the international community that any talk of democratic reform on the horizon was meaningless.



  2. Swazi textile workers suspended

    Last Friday, the company director at the Kang-Fa textile factory in Swaziland issued suspension notices to 30 female staff. The suspensions came after employees had struck the previous day over a number of demands.

    The 30 workers targeted for suspension, all members of the works committee, refused to accept the notices and instigated another picket at the factory. Armed police were called.

    Among the list of grievances is the non-payment of layoff allowances that were promised and back pay of salary increments that should have been paid from March. A worker said they would take their case to the General Alliance of Workers Union of Swaziland, which legally represents textile workers and others working in the private sector.


    Swazi sugar workers strike

    Another strike is to take place at the Illovo Sugar Plantation in Swaziland after three employees were sacked after leading a month-long strike barely a month ago. Other workers targeted by the company are also threatened with disciplinary action.

    All the company workers supported strike action to force the company to retreat. The workers are represented by the Swaziland Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union (SAPWU), which is taking the strike to the Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration Commission (CMAC) to be ratified.



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  6. Pingback: Swaziland workers fight absolute monarchy | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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