Thulani Maseko, the human rights lawyer and journalist, has been moved to solitary confinement in prison as punishment for writing a letter thanking his supporters. One leading rights organisation has said this could be considered ‘torture’.
Maseko, with Bhekhi Makhubu, the editor of the Nation magazine, have been in jail for a year after writing and publishing articles in the Nation that were critical of the judiciary in Swaziland.
The pair were at first remanded in custody and then in July 2014 sentenced to two years imprisonment for contempt of court. The jailing created an international outcry.
The letter which was widely circulated on the Internet and in social media had been distributed by Robert F Kennedy Human Rights in Washington.
Now, the organisation has reported that following the circulation of the letter Maseko was moved into solitary confinement and denied access to his lawyer and all other visitors.
Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, said in a statement, ‘Authorities are clearly acting in retaliation for Thulani’s prison letter, which merely expressed appreciation to the thousands of people across the world that have stood by him and his family during his incarceration.’
He added, ‘The cruel decision to move Thulani into solitary confinement and deny him visitors is yet another brazen indication that the Swazi regime has no regard for the basic human rights of its people.’
Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa. He chooses the government and members of the judiciary. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and groups campaigning for multi-party democracy in the kingdom have been banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
Santiago A. Canton, Executive Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights, said, ‘This week’s decision to move Thulani Maseko to solitary confinement is both dehumanizing and could be considered torture.’
He added, ‘The conditions in Swaziland faced by Thulani Maseko, and other prisoners of conscience like him, of which there are many, are a violation of international law and authorities should address this issue at once.’
SWAZI JOURNALIST’S PRISON LETTER
SUPPORT FOR JAILED SWAZI JOURNALISTS