9 January 2019

Swaziland: Another Swaziland Magistrate Tells Police Stop Beating Suspects As Number of Cases Increase

Another magistrate in Swaziland / eSwatini has spoken out about the increasing number of suspects who appear in court with bruises claiming they have been assaulted by police.

Magistrate Sindisile Zwane at Mbabane said she had noticed a number of suspects came before her in court with bruises and swollen faces and other parts of their bodies.

The Swazi Observer reported on Thursday (3 January 2019) the numbers were increasing significantly. The newspaper added she said police should be able to question people without beating them up.

She made her comments during a trial of Jules Tsabedze who was charged with obstructing two police officers. The Observer reported, 'The magistrate noticed that the suspect's face was swollen and asked why this was the case. Tsabedze narrated that he was beaten by the police from Eteni all the way to University of Eswatini while in the back of the police vehicle.'

This was not the first time a magistrate in Swaziland has made a public rebuke of police. In March 2018 Principal Magistrate at Manzini David Khumalo told police they must not beat suspects after a man appeared in court with injuries all over his body.

The Swazi Observer reported at the time, 'The Principal Magistrate warned that accused persons are citizens of the country and they have rights too. He said they have a right to assist police with investigations but they cannot be forced to do that by being assaulted.'

Blessing Bakhe Maseko, aged 22, of Madonsa, informed the court through his attorney that he was heavily assaulted with a sjambok [whip] while inside police cells.

There have been many allegations of police assault in recent times. In November 2018 it was reported a man from Mangwaneni was left close to death after being allegedly assaulted by two officers at a police station. He suffered severe internal bleeding, heart seizures, the swelling of his kidneys and nerve damage on both his arms and legs.

In September 2018 four women were reportedly beaten with sjamboks and pipes and scalded with boiling water at Siteki police station. Two of them needed hospital treatment for burns and blisters. They were accused of stealing from shops.

In March 2017 a man accused of multiple murders told Manzini Magistrates' Court he was tortured by police for 11 days to force him to confess. He said he was suffocated with a tube and assaulted all over his body, resulting in many serious injuries. The alleged attack was said to have taken place at Lobamba Police Station.

In January 2017 local media reported police forced a 13-year-old boy to remove his trousers and flogged him at Ngwenya police station with a sjambok, to make him confess to stealing a mobile phone.

In June 2016 a United Nations review panel looking into human rights in Swaziland was told in a joint report by four organisations, 'In Mbabane [the Swazi capital], police tortured a 15-year-old boy after his mother had reported him for stealing E85.00 (US$6). The boy alleges that he was beaten with a slasher (metal blade tool for cutting grass) and knobkerrie [club] for five hours. While enduring the pain, he alleges that he was made to count the strokes aloud for the police to hear. Instead of being charged, the boy was physically assaulted and made to sit in a chair for thirty minutes before he was sent back home.'

The report was submitted to the United Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland by the Swaziland Multi-Media Community Network, Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders, Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations and Constituent Assembly - Swaziland.

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