Human Rights Victory! Swaziland Prisoners of Conscience Freed!

July 2, 2015

Thulani Maseko, appears in court in the traditional animal skin garb of a Zulu warrior, in Mbabane, Swaziland.  Maseko delivered a blistering attack on the Swazi judiciary and political system in a trial that has focused fresh attention on human rights issues in a country who's authoritarian system gets little scrutiny in international forums because of the country's small size and strategic insignificance.
Prisoners of conscience Thulani Maseko (above) and Bheki Makhubu walked free from a Swazi prison on June 30, 2015. (c) AP/Press Association Images

Tuesday, June 30th was a very good day. Two activists in Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, walked free after serving over a year of a two-year prison sentence. Bhekithemba (Bheki) Makhubu, editor of The Nation magazine, and Thulani Maseko, an human rights attorney, were released after an appeals court determined there was no case against the men.

Ironically, the men were convicted for publishing articles in The Nation that raised concerns about judicial independence and impartiality in Swaziland. The judge, one of those named in the article, seemed determined to prove them correct when they were found guilty and sentenced after an unfair trial. Amnesty considered the men to be Prisoners of Conscience.

Thank you to all who joined our campaign on Bheki and Thulani’s behalf, taking action and sending letters of solidarity to their families. The families have expressed their gratitude for remembering them during their darkest days.

Amnesty continues to campaign on behalf of political prisoners Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini, held in prison since May 2014. They are detained under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act. Amnesty considers these laws to be repressive, violate principles of legality, and are used to silence critics and repress freedom of expression and association.

Jamie Skaluba, Swaziland Country Specialist for Amnesty International USA, contributed to this blog.