Thursday, November 3, 2011


The Swaziland Government says it cannot give its people their human rights because it doesn’t have the money to pay for them.

And it blames the economic meltdown in the kingdom for this.

In an extraordinary claim it goes on to say that Swaziland has a ‘small and vulnerable’ economy that has been exposed to ‘external shocks’. This it says, ‘had historically diminished the ability of the government to efficiently underwrite some of the human rights that have financial implications.’

The government, handpicked by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, did not explain how, for example, abolishing the death penalty, stopping the corporal punishment of children and given women their rights would cost money for the government.

The excuse for not giving the Swazi people their human rights is contained in a report from the United Nations this week.

The report is an unedited draft of the findings of the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review into human rights in Swaziland. The review took place on 4 October 2011.

The claims are part of the Swaziland Government’s response to criticisms made by a number of nations about Swaziland’s poor record on human rights. Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze, then acting (now confirmed) Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, headed the Swaziland delegation at the review.

During the review, nations lined up to point out the failing in Swaziland’s human rights record.

Here are some of the comments published in the report.

Switzerland ‘expressed alarm by the many allegations of extra-judicial executions and tortures committed by the security forces and stated that victims should receive justice. It noted that there were no political parties because of existing restrictions and that there were few private media organisations.’

Norway expressed ‘concern at the systematic violations of freedom of assembly and association in Swaziland, including by suppression of political parties. Norway expressed grave concern at the reports of forceful disruptions o f peaceful marches, rallies and protests, including through the use of violence and arbitrary detention. It was alarmed at the extensive use of pre-trial detention, ill-treatments and alleged torture by police custody.’

France ‘expressed concern at the use by authorities of the law [Suppression of Terrorism Act] 2008 on the repression of terrorism, to restrict freedom of expression’.

China noted there was ‘still presence of gender inequality’.

India ‘encouraged Swaziland to enhance women’s empowerment’.

Canada ‘expressed concern at the continuing ban of political parties and the lack of democratic space to exercise freedom of expression and association. Canada also expressed concern at the reports of excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial executions.’

Hungary stated, ‘Swaziland retained the death penalty in its statute books. Also, freedom of assembly and association were severely restricted.’

Ghana ‘noted the discriminatory practices against women persisting in Swaziland. It also noted the continuing allegations of arrest and detention following peaceful protest actions.’

Slovakia noted ‘that there were allegations of police employing interrogation methods contravening to constitutional provision. Slovakia expressed concern about reported restrictions concerning the freedom of expression such as the Proscribed Publications Act and the Suppression of Terrorism Act.’

Australia ‘urged Swaziland to take steps to reduce the high rates of chronic malnutrition and mortality for children under-five; and to abolish the death penalty and corporal punishment. It expressed concerns about the over-crowding and poor conditions in prisons.’

Germany ‘noted the restrictions in freedom of expression, in particular the Proscribed Publications Act.’

Slovenia ‘remained concerned about reports of discriminatory practices against women. It asked about the necessary measures taken to effectively ensure gender equality.’

Brazil ‘was concerned about the persistence of discrimination against women, and restrictions to civil and political rights. Brazil encouraged Swaziland to pursue constitutional reforms.’

The United States ‘requested how Swaziland planned to ensure protection of freedom of assembly, association and expression. It called on Swaziland to protect the rights of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people.’

Sweden ‘noted that domestic legislation needed to be harmonised with the 2006 Constitution and the international human rights law. Sweden was concerned that the independence of the National Commission for Human Rights and Public Administration was questioned and its powers remained unclear.’

To read the full report, click here.

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