22 May 2017

Swaziland: Probe Into 'Inhumane' Jail Conditions

Photo: Daily Trust
(File photo).

A United Nations group is investigating prison conditions in Swaziland amid reports of inhumane conditions.

They include food shortages, inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

Swaziland ratified the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2004 and its initial report on progress was due by 2005, but 13 years later it has failed to report. After such a long delay, the Human Rights Committee (HRC) has scheduled a review of the kingdom in the absence of report. This review will take place in July 2017.

In a wide-ranging document the HRC poses a number of questions to the Swazi Government which was not elected by the people but hand-picked by King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch.

The report says, 'Please respond to reports of inhumane prison conditions, including in terms of food shortages and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

'Please also comment on the allegations that the president of the (outlawed) political party People's United Democratic Movement of Swaziland, Mario Masuku, was denied access to adequate and independent medical care for complications relating to diabetes throughout the 14 months he spent in pretrial detention at Zakhele Remand centre and Matsapha Central Prison.'

The HRC is also asking for detailed information about the number of existing prisons in the kingdom, prison capacity and the number of inmates and whether there are separate facilities for adults and children. It also asks what plans Swaziland has to ratify the Convention against Torture and Other, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

In 2014 it was reported that more than 1,000 people were in jail in Swaziland because they were too poor to pay fines for offences such as traffic violations, theft by false pretences, malicious injury to property and fraud.

The figures revealed that in Swaziland, where seven in ten people live in abject poverty with incomes less than US$2 per day, 1,053 of 3,615 inmates in Swazi jails were there because they did not have the money to pay a fine option. This was 29.1 percent of the entire prison population.

In February 2017, the Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland reported shortages of food and toilet paper in jails throughout the kingdom. This was due to the government's financial crisis, it said.

Swaziland

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