Swaziland (eSwatini) suffers ‘significant’ human rights abuses including ‘cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; political prisoners or detainees; serious restrictions on free expression and the press; restrictions on political participation; and serious acts of corruption,’ according to the United States’ State Department.
It is the third substantial global organisation this year (2021) to highlight significant abuses in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III.
In its latest annual report on human rights in Swaziland, covering 2020, the State Department stated the Swazi Government was ‘inconsistent in its investigation, prosecution, and punishment of officials who committed human rights abuses’.
On conditions in prisons, the report stated they ‘did not always meet international standards due to overcrowding and, in certain locations, facilities that required repair or modernization’.
It stated the total prison population was 3,796, but there was only capacity for 958 inmates. ‘Prisoner-on-prisoner violence remained a concern due to increased gang activity among inmates as prison populations expanded and diversified.’
The State Department report followed one from Freedom House in February 2021. It found Swaziland was ‘not free’. It awarded the kingdom 19 points out of a possible 100.
In an overview of the kingdom, Freedom House reported, ‘The king exercises ultimate authority over all branches of the national government and effectively controls local governance through his influence over traditional chiefs. Political dissent and civic and labor activism are subject to harsh punishment under sedition and other laws. Additional human rights problems include impunity for security forces and discrimination against women and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people.’
Also in February 2021, Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its annual report highlighted restrictions on freedoms of assembly and association.
It reported King Mswati continued to rule as an absolute monarch and political parties remained banned from taking part in elections and had held supreme executive power since the 1973 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.’
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