Swaziland: People of Swaziland Deserve Justice Over Lives Lost in Recent Political Unrest, Human Rights Group Reports

The people of Swaziland (eSwatini) should exercise their right to choose their political system and justice must be done for lives lost during the continuing unrest in the kingdom, according to a briefing paper from the South Africa-based Helen Suzman Foundation just released.

Swaziland is not a democracy and over the past months protests for reform have been repressed with excessive might from police and security forces.

Political parties are barred from taking part in elections and groups advocating for reform are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. No members of the kingdom's Senate chamber are elected by the people and the King appoints the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers and top judges among others.

At least 21 protestors had reportedly been killed by 30 June 2021. HSF reports, 'Video clips surfaced on social media of police officers physically assaulting protesters and using live ammunition at the violent protests. The UN Human Rights Committee on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) had previously noted its concerns over the use of force by the government of eSwatini.

'In particular, it raised concerns regarding the permissive conditions in Article 41 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act and provisions of the Public Order Act which leaves it to the discretion of individual police officers to decide whether it is expedient to use force. In essence, the police force have violated the right to security of the person using this legal provision.

'Around the 30 June 2021, the government ordered an internet shutdown to make it difficult for the people of eSwatini to communicate within its borders and with the outside world. For instance, MTN admitted to shutting down the internet following a directive from the eSwatini Communications Committee. This led to an urgent application in the High Court of eSwatini by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC).'

SALC said the said internet shutdown led to violation of freedom of expressions, information and association. The matter has yet to be heard.

On 2 July 2021, The Southern African Development Community (SADC) started a fact-finding mission in Swaziland through the SADC Organ Troika on Politics, Defence and Security. This was criticised by civil society organisations as being too late and out of touch.

HSF said, 'The government's response to the political demands of the people for a reform of the current monarchy into a democratic government ought not to have been the use of force or limitation and infringement of freedom of expression, and sharing and attaining of information. This violated its domestic laws and international obligations.'

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