The Swazi authorities should immediately reinstate a prominent high court judge, Justice Thomas Masuku, who has been sacked on trumped-up charges, Amnesty International said today.
Justice Masuku was suspended in June. He was then subjected to unfair dismissal proceedings over allegations made to Swaziland’s King Mswati III by the country’s Chief Justice, Michael Ramodibedi. These included a claim that Justice Masuku had insulted the King in one of his rulings.
Amnesty International is also calling for the reinstatement of the country’s Justice Minister, Reverend David Matse, who was suspended after refusing to authorize the Judge’s dismissal.
“These allegations had no basis in fact or law to justify the proceedings. Firing Justice Masuku and suspending Justice Minister Matse illustrates the depth of the crisis in the rule of law in Swaziland,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa
“Masuku’s hearing was effectively a kangaroo court which was chaired by the Chief Justice, the main complainant. It was held behind closed doors and breached international standards on fair trial” she said.
Justice Masuku has been harassed and suspended in the past for challenging unlawful royal decrees. His rulings have helped protect human rights and his resistance to government pressure on the judiciary has been crucial to maintaining its independence.
Swaziland’s Law Society had denounced the unfairness of the proceedings against Justice Masuku and his dismissal, as have other law bodies in the region. It is campaigning for the removal of the Chief Justice.
Amnesty International had previously criticized the nature of the dismissal proceedings against Justice Masuku. It called on the government to ensure proceedings were transparent, impartial, independent and conducted in public.
“The dismissal of Justice Masuku, based on vaguely stated allegations and handled in a grossly unfair manner, sets an ominous precedent for other judges who may wish to take similar stands in carrying out their duties,” said Michelle Kagari.