3 January 2018

Swaziland: U.S. Restores Swazi Trade Benefits

The United States has restored trade benefits for Swaziland that were withdrawn because of human rights violations, but there is still more work to be done.

Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, lost assistance under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in January 2015 due to concerns over restrictions on the freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and expression.

AGOA allows countries to export goods to the United States tariff-free.

Swaziland has not been given a clean bill of health by the United States. A statement issued by the US embassy in Swaziland said the kingdom had been reviewed and priorities for the future had been suggested, 'including but not limited to eliminating child labour and promoting women's protections'.

Swaziland was suspended from AGOA after it failed to meet five benchmarks, including full passage of amendments to the Industrial Relations Act; full passage of amendments to sections 40 and 97 of the Industrial Relations Act relating to civil and criminal liability of union leaders during protest actions; and establishing a code of good practice for the police during public protests.

The five benchmarks have still not been fully met, although progress has been made on passing legislation.

The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) has said it was good that legislation had been passed but the kingdom still had to implement them.

TUCOSWA acting Secretary General Mduduzi Gina, was reported by the Swazi Observer (28 December 2017) saying they hoped there would be no hitches when it came to practical implementation of the enacted laws.

The United States continues to have grave concerns about the state of human rights in Swaziland. In its most recent annual report on the matter covering 2016, the US State Department stated, 'The principal human rights concerns are that citizens do not have the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot; police use of excessive force, including torture, beatings, and unlawful killings; restrictions on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association; and discrimination against and abuse of women and children.

'Other human rights problems included arbitrary killings; arbitrary arrests and lengthy pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community and persons with albinism; mob violence; harassment of labor leaders; child labor; and restrictions on worker rights.'


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