30 June 2016

Swaziland: Call for Global Pressure On Govt

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

Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) has called on the international community to apply serious pressure on the Government of Swaziland so that it respects human rights and develops a genuinely democratic constitution.

The absolute monarch King Mswati III is due to become the chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in August 2016 while his government continues to violate human rights with impunity. In a report published on Wednesday (29 June 2016), ACTSA warned that Swaziland might plunge into a protracted crisis unless African governments, as well as bilateral and multilateral donors, vigorously and consistently engage with the Government of Swaziland so that it genuinely protects and serves all of its citizens.

In a statement, ACTSA said, 'The report, Swaziland's Downward Spiral, outlines how the current Constitution of Swaziland fails to respect democratic norms, and many laws undermine basic freedoms, especially those of women. The country's largest opposition party, the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), is banned.

'Trade unions and other civil society organisations seeking to promote human rights and democracy endure systematic oppression. As a result of mismanagement and corruption, the economy is in a dire state, with 63 percent of the population living below the poverty line, and wealth concentrated in the hands of the royal family and a tiny elite close to the King.'

The statement continued, 'The report argues that the international community has not sufficiently engaged with the denial of human rights and with authoritarianism in Swaziland. Some, especially those within the country, interpret this as condoning the actions of the King and his government. Ultimately, real and lasting change will only come about if the King enters into meaningful dialogue with his political opponents, as well as with all sections of civil society. Internal pressure for reform can and must be bolstered by significant external pressure.'

The report is the latest in a long line of reports published over the past two months highlighting human rights abuses in the kingdom where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch.

The United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland met in May 2016 and received reports from a large number of organisations within Swaziland and outside calling on the Swazi regime to improve its human rights record.

Among them, The Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) reported, people were being shot and killed in Swaziland because they were suspected of poaching and game rangers were immune from prosecution.

Human Rights Watch reported that Swaziland had not kept its promise made in 2011 to change laws in the kingdom relating to freedom of association and assembly so they met international standards.

A joint report from Swaziland Multi-Media Community Network, Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders, Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations and Constituent Assembly - Swaziland stated Swazi police tortured a 15-year-old boy after his mother had reported him for stealing E85 (US$6).

A joint report from SOS-Swaziland, Super Buddies, Prison Fellowship and Luvatsi - Swaziland Youth Empowerment Organisation, stated children as young as 11 years old were being incarcerated in juvenile correction facilities in Swaziland for up to 10 years, even though they had committed no crimes.

Rock of Hope, which campaigns for LGBTI equality in Swaziland, reported that laws, social stigma and prejudice prevented LGBTI organisations from operating freely.

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