27 June 2016

Swaziland: No Amnesty in 'Terror' Cases

Photo: Swaziland Solidarity Network Forum
Swaziland anti-govt protests (file photo).

Swaziland refused to withdraw all charges against people brought under the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA), when it appeared before a United Nations review of human rights in the kingdom.

The STA has been criticised across the world because it is used to arrest and jail people, including trade unionists, who are legitimately calling for their rights.

Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2016, said 'The Suppression of Terrorism Act, the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act of 1938, and other similarly draconian legislation provided sweeping powers to the security services to halt meetings and protests and to curb criticism of the government, even though such rights are protected under Swaziland's 2005 constitution. In September 2015, eight human rights defenders challenged the constitutionality of these security laws in the High Court of Swaziland. A final ruling has yet to be handed down.'

The STA was 'regularly used' by the police to interfere in trade union activities, Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) said in a submission to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in 2015.

Amnesty International has criticised of Swaziland for the 'continued persecution of peaceful political opponents and critics' by the King and his authorities. It said the Swazi authorities were using the Acts, 'to intimidate activists, further entrench political exclusion and to restrict the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.'

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch. Political parties are not allowed to contest elections. The people are only allowed to select 55 of the 65 members of the House of Assembly, with the King appointing the others. No members of the 30-strong Swaziland Senate are elected by the people.

Swaziland appeared before the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group for a five-yearly Universal Periodic Review in May 2016.

A draft report of the review published online, stated that Swaziland refused to accept 14 recommendations from members of the review panel, including one from Norway that recommended a, 'Withdraw all criminal charges brought against human rights defenders and political opponents under laws such as the Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008 and other security legislation, and ensure that proposed amendments to these acts bring them in conformity with international human rights standards.'

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