A 15-year-old boy was tortured by police in Swaziland after his mother reported him for stealing E85 (US$6). The boy said he was beaten with a metal blade and a club for five hours.
The case was just one of many reported to a United Nations review panel looking into human rights in Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
A joint report by four organisations working to improve human rights stated, ‘In Mbabane [the Swazi capital], police tortured a 15-year-old boy after his mother had reported him for stealing E85.00. The boy alleges that he was beaten with a slasher (metal blade tool for cutting grass) and knobkerrie (club) for five hours. While enduring the pain, he alleges that he was made to count the strokes aloud for the police to hear. Instead of being charged, the boy was physically assaulted and made to sit in a chair for thirty minutes before he was sent back home.’
The report was submitted to the United Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland by the Swaziland Multi-Media Community Network, Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders, Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations and Constituent Assembly – Swaziland.
They also reported the case of Phumelela Mkhweli, a political activist who died after alleged assault by police after they arrested him.
The report also stated, ‘In April 2011, a 66-year-old woman was confronted by three police officers regarding the wording on her t-shirt and headscarf. The police allegedly pulled off her T-shirt, throttled her, banged her head against the wall, sexually molested her, kicked her and threw her against a police truck.
‘The US Department of State reported on many allegations of torture and ill-treatment by police; including beatings and temporary suffocation using rubber tube tied around the face, nose, and mouth, or plastic bags over the head, the report stated.
There have been numerous reports of torture by police and military personnel in Swaziland over the past few years.
In July 2015, Swazi MP Titus Thwala reported that Swaziland soldiers beat up old ladies so badly they had to be taken to their homes in wheelbarrows. He said that elderly women were among the local residents who were regularly beaten by soldiers at informal crossing points between Swaziland and South Africa. Thwala said the soldiers made people do push ups and other exercises.
In 2011, a man was reportedly beaten with guns and tortured for three hours by soldiers who accused him of showing them disrespect. He was ordered to do press ups, frog jumps and told to run across a very busy road and was beaten with guns every time he tried to resist. His crime was that he tried to talk to a man whose vehicle was being searched by soldiers at Maphiveni.
The incident was one of many examples of soldiers being out of control in Swaziland. The Army, in effect, has a shoot-to-kill policy. In May 2011, three unarmed South African men were shot dead by Swazi soldiers when they were caught trying to smuggle four cows from Swaziland into the Republic.
In July 2011, three armed soldiers left a man for dead after he tried to help a woman they were beating up. And in a separate incident, a woman was beaten by two soldiers after she tried to stop them talking to her sister.
In January 2010 soldiers were warned that their attacks on civilians amounted to a ‘shoot to kill’ policy and this was unconstitutional.
There have been many accounts of soldiers killing or beating up civilians, including a cold-blooded murder of two women accused of smuggling a car across the border with South Africa; a man who had five bullets pumped into his body after being beaten to a pulp; an attack on sex workers after three soldiers refused to pay them for their services; an attack by a bus load of soldiers on a security guard after he asked them to move their vehicle; and five drunk soldiers who terrorised two boys, smashing one of them to a pulp.
SWAZI ARMY’S IDEA OF PEACE
SWAZI STUDENT LEADER TORTURED
SWAZI STUDENT LEADER TORTURED
KING’S PAPER SUPPORTS POLICE TORTURE
ROUGH JUSTICE FOR SEX WORKERS
MORE POLICE TORTURE IN SWAZILAND
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