Annual Report: Swaziland 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Swaziland 2013

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Kingdom of Swaziland

Head of state King Mswati III

Head of government Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini

The rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly continued to be violated, with arbitrary arrests and excessive force used to crush political protests. Torture and other ill-treatment remained a persistent concern. Some progress was made in the reform of laws which discriminated against women.

Background

The government's financial situation remained precarious despite increased revenue from the Southern African Customs Union. Its efforts to secure loans from various sources were not successful, partly due to its failure to implement fiscal reforms, and its unwillingness to accept conditions, including instituting political reforms. Pressure on public sector workers, including teachers, led to prolonged strikes. Political groupings and civil society organizations renewed calls for political transformation. The House of Assembly passed an unprecedented vote of no confidence in the government in October.

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

There was continued pressure on the independence of the judiciary throughout the year, with consequences for access to justice.

In March, Swaziland's human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Swaziland reconfirmed its rejection of recommendations to allow political parties to participate in elections. Swaziland also confirmed that it intended to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, but had not done so by the end of the year.

In May the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights adopted a resolution expressing alarm at the government's failure to implement the Commission's decision of 2002 and recommendations made in 2006 relating to the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

It also expressed concern at the de-registration of the newly formed Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA).

Freedom of expression

The rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly continued to be violated, with police using rubber bullets, tear gas and batons to break up demonstrations and gatherings viewed as illegal.

  • In March the High Court heard arguments that the summary contempt proceedings brought against Independent Publishers and the editor of The Nation violated their right to fair trial and to freedom of expression and opinion, and were accordingly unlawful and unconstitutional. The hearing had followed the publication of two articles calling on the judiciary to use the Constitution to better people's lives and raising concerns about the intentions of the then Acting Chief Justice. The criminal contempt case had been brought by the Attorney General, legal adviser to the head of state, although his office had no jurisdiction to prosecute. The Court had not issued a ruling by the end of the year.
  • On the eve of its participation in planned demonstrations in April, TUCOSWA was informed by the Attorney General that it was unlawfully registered, despite registration having been confirmed by the Acting Commissioner of Labour under the Industrial Relations Act. While TUCOSWA officials continued to challenge the legality of the de-registration, police disrupted their gatherings, confiscated banners displaying TUCOSWA insignia, conducted arbitrary arrests and threatened union officials and activists. At least one detained activist, lawyer Mary Pais da Silva, was assaulted in custody.

Torture and other ill-treatment and unfair trials

Torture and other ill-treatment remained a concern, with a High Court judge in April calling for a commission of inquiry into repeated allegations by accused in criminal trials that they had been subjected to torture, which included beatings and suffocation. Deaths under suspicious circumstances and the failure of the authorities to ensure independent investigation and accountability continued to cause concern. Police and members of the military were implicated in the reported incidents.