Swaziland Govt or Agents 'Committed Unlawful Killings', New Human Rights Report States

The Swaziland (eSwatini) government and its agents committed 'arbitrary or unlawful killings', according to reports, the latest United States report on human rights in the kingdom states.

The annual report, recently released, covered the year 2019.

It stated, 'There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

'In June police shot and killed a man suspected for harboring prison escapees and drug dealing. There were no reports that the suspect attacked or otherwise threatened police.

'In early June a man was found severely injured after being questioned by police. The man's cousin alleged that the man was beaten by police, and then left to die in a secluded area some 18 miles away. Police stated that they had questioned the person, decided not to charge him, and then gave him a ride to a nearby town. The man died in the hospital almost two months later. REPS [Royal eSwatini Police Service] promised to investigate, but there were no further reports concerning any investigation or disciplinary action by year's end.'

The report was published by the United States State Department.

It highlighted cases of torture by police. It stated, 'During the year two officers were charged with homicide in relation to their alleged roles in the 2015 death of a detainee during an interrogation. Three additional officers were investigated for torture in response to a referral from the Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration Integrity.

'In February the High Court awarded 70,000 emalangeni (US$4,870) damages for pain and suffering to a man who was assaulted by members of the UEDF [the Army] in 2003. There also were scattered reports throughout the country of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by "community police"-untrained, volunteer security personnel who exist outside the country's formal legal structures and are empowered by rural communities to act as vigilantes, patrolling against rural crimes such as cattle rustling.

'In August five community police members in Sihhohweni punched, kicked, and beat a man with a broomstick so severely that he needed to be hospitalized. The abuse was reported to the REPS, and the community police members were arrested for assault. The magistrate found them guilty and sentenced each to 10 months' imprisonment with an option of a 2,000 emalangeni (US$140) fine. In October a UEDF member was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment with an option of a 14,000 emalangeni (US$975) fine for an off-duty xenophobic assault on a Mozambican national.'

Under the heading 'Political Prisoners and Detainees' the report also highlighted the case of democracy activist Goodwill Sibiya who had been in lengthy pretrial detained 'for criticism of the king'.

King Mswati III rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch.

The report stated, 'In May activist Goodwill Sibiya filed an application in civil court accusing the king of embezzlement and lawlessness and demanded that he be arrested. Authorities arrested Sibiya and charged him with belonging to a terrorist group and with violating a section of the Sedition and Subversive Activities (SSA) Act ruled unconstitutional in 2016 by the High Court.

'In September the High Court ruled the government could not charge someone under a section of law that had been declared unconstitutional. The government responded by dismissing the SSA charge against Sibiya; however, the activist remained in prison awaiting trial on a Suppression of Terrorism Act charge at year's end.'

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