Swaziland Human Rights
The Kingdom of Swaziland is the only remaining absolute monarchy in Africa. King Mswati III continues to amass wealth while two-thirds of Swazi citizens live on less than US $1 a day and over a quarter of the population is living with HIV/AIDS. The legal status of political parties remains unclear and the King maintains ultimate authority over the cabinet, legislature, and judiciary. Rights already compromised under the Swaziland legal system were threatened further in 2008 when anti-terror legislation was signed into law. The legislation has led to arbitrary arrests, mistreatment of detainees, and the prosecution of human rights defenders.
The Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA), which was signed into law in August 2008, further threatens freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly; human rights had already been compromised by Swaziland's legal system. The sweeping and imprecise phrasings of some key provisions in the law have contributed to an atmosphere of uncertainty and of intimidation amongst a wide range of civil society organizations. There are heavy penalties for any violations. The Government of Swaziland has already used its powers under the STA to classify opposition groups and civil society organizations as terrorist entities.
Human rights defenders, trade unionists and political activists were arbitrarily detained, assaulted, and intimidated in September 2010 when security forces attempted to disrupt two days of planned protest marches. The security forces conducted mass arrests with no legal basis and unlawfully detained the activists.
Swazi security forces carried out arbitrary and secret detentions during peaceful protests in April 2011. Police dispersed protests by firing tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons into the crowds. Armed members of the security forces also entered the headquarters of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) and conducted a search without a warrant.
Amnesty International believes the STA should be amended to comply with Swaziland's international human rights obligations under international law. The legislation should not be used against human rights defenders, civil society organizations and political activists exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.