• Sheet of paper Report

Annual Report: Swaziland 2013

May 23, 2013

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.


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.

  • In February Maxwell Dlamini, President of the National Union of Students, and Musa Ngubeni, a political activist and former student activist leader, were released after 10 months in remand custody and placed under oppressive bail conditions.
  • On 12 March 43-year-old Lucky Montero was kicked and beaten in the head and body by soldiers at a border checkpoint. He died 12 days later in Mbabane Government Hospital from medical complications arising from his injuries.
  • In August the High Court found Amos Mbedze, a South African national, guilty of murder, in connection with the deaths in a car bomb explosion in 2008 of two men who were in the vehicle and with whom he was alleged to have conspired to undermine the security of the state. He was sentenced to 85 years' imprisonment. The incident, which had occurred near one of the King's palaces, led to the rapid promulgation of the Suppression of Terrorism Act. The murder conviction was not supported by any evidence heard during his trial.

Death penalty

In November, the Supreme Court of Appeal rejected David Simelane's appeal against his death sentence imposed in 2011 at the conclusion of his 10-year-long trial for the murder of 34 women. In the same month, Mciniseli Jomo Simelane was sentenced to death by the High Court for murder.

Women's rights

In March, at the UN Universal Periodic Review session, Swaziland accepted to amend “without delay” laws which discriminate against women.

In June the Deeds Registry (Amendment) Bill was passed by parliament. The Bill amended a provision in the original Act which prevented most women married under civil law from legally registering homes in their own name.

The Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill had still not been tabled in the Senate by the end of the year, although it was passed by the lower house of parliament in October 2011.

In September The Children's Protection and Welfare Act was assented to by the King. The new law increased protection against forced marriage for girls and young women. The organization Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse publicly expressed alarm that a senior adviser to the King on traditional law and custom announced an intention to seek a court review of the Act.

Amnesty International visits/reports

  • Amnesty International delegates visited Swaziland in March and November.
  • Amnesty International urges Swaziland to take concrete and immediate measures to guarantee the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and to amend laws which discriminate against women without delay (AFR 55/001/2012)