Geneva — The violence that erupted in eSwatini in recent days – in which dozens of people have been reported killed or injured during protests – is deeply concerning, the UN Human Rights Office said Tuesday.
"I think what has been happening, stemming from the protests that began in May, indicated over this death by a student, has developed in recent days into calls for pro-democratic reforms," said Liz Throssel, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Speaking at a UN briefing in Geneva, she said the conflict is "an indication of underlying frustrations by the people... The protesters are calling for pro-democratic reforms; they are calling for some change. They are also voicing deep-seated economic grievances as well. So, it is hugely challenging."
The unrest first began in May when students took to the streets to call for accountability for the death of a 25-year-old law student, allegedly at the hands of the police. In late June, the protests grew into daily pro-democracy marches in several locations, with protesters voicing deep-seated political and economic grievances.
"We have received allegations of disproportionate and unnecessary use of force, harassment and intimidation by security forces in suppressing last week's protests, including the use of live ammunition by police," said Throssel.
Some protesters were reported to have looted premises and set buildings and vehicles on fire, and in some parts, they barricaded roads.
Although the situation is now reported to be calmer, the UN office remains concerned about the potential for further unrest.
"We urge the authorities to fully adhere to human rights principles in restoring calm and the rule of law, in particular the obligation to minimize any use of force in the policing of protests only to that absolutely necessary as a measure of last resort," Throssel added.
The UN office also called on the government to ensure prompt, transparent, adequate, independent, and impartial investigations into all allegations of human rights violations, including those by law enforcement personnel.