Representatives of the following civil society organizations are shocked to hear of the brutal murder of Eswatini human rights defender Thulani Maseko. Such attacks and the ongoing violence against pro-democracy campaigners in Eswatini make it all the more urgent to seek peace and full respect for human rights in Eswatini.
Civil society organizations around the world are calling on the Eswatini authorities to allow an independent, fair and effective investigation into the brutal murder of Thulani Maseko.
The murder of Thulani Maseko is the latest in a series of tragic events linked to the government’s brutal response to pro-democracy protests in Eswatini and peaceful calls for democratic reforms. They highlight the seriousness of the human rights situation in Eswatini and the magnitude of the work that needs to be done to address it. Thulani Maseko, a well-known human rights lawyer and activist for democracy in the country, was shot dead on Saturday 21 January 2023 in front of her family at her home south of Mbabane. he was killed a few hours later King Mswati warns those calling for democracy that his mercenaries will deal with themhe said that “People shouldn’t shed tears and shouldn’t complain about mercenaries killing them,
At the time of his death, Thulani headed the Multi-Stakeholder Forum (MSF) of political parties and civil society groups leading the campaign for democracy in the state. “He was inside the house with his family when the killers shot him through the window,” said a spokesman for the Forum. At the time of his death, as a human rights lawyer, Maseko was representing a number of human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists in Eswatini.
The activist was reportedly receiving death threats for over a year. As a human rights defender, she was subjected to judicial harassment, threats of harassment and detention. He was convicted of contempt of court on 18 March 2014 along with journalist Bheki Makhubu. Criticism of Eswatini’s judicial system, From May 2021, the human rights situation in Eswatini deteriorated and pro-democracy protesters called for democratic reforms. Thousands of Swazis took to the streets to demand basic human rights and good democratic governance, challenging the non-service provided by the current government. In response to the protests, King Mswati III—the last absolute monarch in Africa decree issued Banning citizens from sending petitions to parliamentarians demanding democratic reforms. Authorities used excessive force against protesters, detaining them, killing and injuring others, and kidnapping and abducting activists. As a result, more than 80 people were reported killed, more than 200 injured, and thousands more arrested and detained. in present, Two members of parliament, Maduduzi Bakede Mabuza and Mathandeni Dubey, were detained for 16 months. Without trial, facing criminal charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act in connection with the protests.
Eswatini has been given status ‘repressed’ By Civics Monitor, an online platform that measures the state of civil liberties in all countries. Information from Eswatini shows that activists and human rights defenders are being harassed, intimidated and threatened for their real or perceived initiatives and support for pro-democracy and good governance. Stakeholders remain concerned that civilians involved in political activism are harassed, reprisaled, tortured and even killed and that King Mswati has stifled calls for reform and suppressed political activism for years. Have given.
We strongly urge the Government of Eswatini to:
- Conduct an impartial investigation into the brutal murder of Thulani Maseko and hold all those responsible for it accountable.
- Stop harassing activists and release all journalists and human rights defenders currently detained for human rights activities.
- Create an enabling environment for human rights defenders and all citizens to express, engage and assemble without fear and harassment.
- Ensure the safety of all Eswatini people, including human rights defenders, journalists and political activists, and protect civilian space.
- Immediately end harassment of all activists, drop all charges against political prisoners, including those awaiting trial or jailed for their alleged role in the May 2021 protests.
- Conduct an independent investigation into the use of violence against peaceful protesters and prosecute security personnel who use excessive force against protesters.
We call on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) to:
- Use all existing mechanisms and tools to urgently seek a permanent solution to the political crisis with King Mswati’s government and all stakeholders and pave the way for democratic reforms.
- Demand accountability from Eswatini authorities for gross human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force against protesters, and extrajudicial killings of activists.
- Call on the Government of Eswatini to respect, protect and fulfill human rights obligations in accordance with international and regional instruments.
The statement is supported by: