1 March 2017

Swaziland: Terror Act Changes Stall At Senate

The promised amendments to the Swaziland's Suppression of Terrorism Act have been shelved by the kingdom's Senate - again.

The Act, which bans organisations that advocate democratic reform and imprisons dissenters, has been criticised across the world as undemocratic.

The United States scrapped the lucrative trade deal AGOA with the kingdom because Swaziland refused to accept the need for reform. King Mswati III rules the kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch.

The Suppression of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2016 was due to be debated by the Swazi Senate on Monday (27 February 2017) but was deferred. In Swaziland, Senate members are not elected by the people. King Mswati selects 20 members of the 30-strong house and the other 10 are elected by the House of Assembly. Political parties are banned from contesting elections.

The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported this was not the first time that the Bill had been deferred. It said senators questioned Deputy Senate President Ngomuyayona Gamedze as to why the Bill had been deferred countless times.

The law which came into force in 2008 has been criticised by human rights groups globally. In September 2016, the Swazi High Court ruled sections of the Act and sections of the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act were unconstitutional because they contravened provisions in the Constitution on freedom of expression and freedom of association.

The Swaziland Attorney-general has appealed the decision.

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