Restrictions on freedom of assembly and association grip Swaziland (eSwatini), according to the latest annual report from Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Reviewing the year 2020, the group said, ‘On October 20, the eSwatini High Court heard a challenge from eSwatini Sexual and Gender Minorities (ESGM) against the eSwatini Registrar of Companies’ refusal to register ESGM as a company. ESGM is a human rights community-based advocacy organization working to advance the protection of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in the kingdom of Eswatini. The registrar argued that ESGM could not be registered as a company because “ESGM’s objectives were unlawful because same-sex sexual acts are illegal in the country.”
‘ESGM responded by arguing that eSwatini’s constitutional rights apply to everyone, that everyone in the kingdom has a right to their dignity, and that freedom to associate should not be denied based on arbitrary grounds, including one’s sexual orientation. At time of writing, the court had yet to issue its ruling.’
King Mswati III continues to rule as an absolute monarch and political parties remain banned from taking part in elections and he has held supreme executive power over parliament and the judiciary since the1973 State of Emergency decree.
HRW reported, ‘The country’s courts have upheld the legality of the decree despite the fact that the 2005 constitution provides for three separate organs of state—the executive, legislature and judiciary. The prime minister theoretically holds executive authority, but in reality, the king exercises supreme executive power and controls the judiciary. The 2005 constitution provides for equality before the law while simultaneously elevating the king above the law.
In 2020, Reporters Without Borders ranked eSwatini 141 out of 180 countries on media freedom, based partly on constraints that journalists face in working freely under the absolute monarchy, and because courts are not permitted to prosecute representatives of the monarchy.
In June 2020, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) published results of an annual survey indicating that Swaziland has one of the worst workers’ rights records in the world. Swaziland scored five on the Global Rights Index—five being worst on the scale—capturing its failure to respect workers’ rights and the fact that Swazi workers are exposed to repression and unfair labour practices. According to the ITUC, countries with the five rating provide no guarantees for rights and are among the worst countries in the world in which to work.
No let-up in restrictions of freedom of association and assembly in Swaziland: Human Rights Watch