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Swaziland (Eswatini)
21.03.14
Urgent Interventions

Arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Thulani Rudolf Maseko and Mr. Bheki Makhubu

SWZ 001 /0314 / OBS 023

Arbitrarydetention /

Judicialharassment

Swaziland

March 21,2014

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a jointprogramme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in thefollowing situation in Swaziland.

Briefdescription of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about thearbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Thulani Rudolf Maseko,a human rights lawyer, senior member of Lawyers for Human Rights Swaziland andthe Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network as well as a columnist for TheNation[1], and Mr. Bheki Makhubu,Editor-in-Chief of The Nation.

According to the information received, on March 17 and 18, 2014respectively, Messrs. Thulani Maseko and Mr. Bheki Makhubu were arrested underthe same warrant, issued by Chief Justice Ditto Ntate Ramodibedi, on charges of“scandalizing the judiciary” and “contempt of court” following the publicationof articles criticizing the judicial system.

The charges arise from articles written by Messrs. Thulani Maseko andBheki Makhubu in February and March 2014 in The Nation, in which theyquestioned circumstances surrounding the arrest of government vehicleinspector, Bhantshana Vincent Gwebu and criticized the lack of impartiality ofthe Swazi judicial system[2].

On March 18, 2014, Messrs. Maseko and Makhubu, who were expected toappear in court, were subjected to a private hearing in the Chief JusticeRamodibedi’s chambers, in violation of Section 21 of the Constitution of theKingdom of Swaziland, which guarantees the right to a fair trial. The accused'slawyers were not informed that the hearing would take place in the ChiefJustice's chambers and were only present by chance. The latter remanded theminto custody pending a bail hearing on March 25, 2014. Messrs. Maseko andMakhubu are currently detained in the provisional detention centre ofSidwashini in Mbabane.

In April 2013, Mr. Makhubu had already been sentencedon charges of “scandalizing the court” to a fine of E400,000 (approximately EUR26,758) by the High Court for publishing articles that criticized the judiciaryof Swaziland (an appeal is pending) and in 2009 Mr. Maseko was charged withcontravening the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (the case was neverbrought to trial).

The Observatory expresses its deep concern about thearbitrary detention and judicial harassment faced by Messrs.Thulani Maseko and Mr. Bheki Makhubu, since they seem to aim solely atsanctioning their activities of human rights defenders and calls upon theauthorities of Swaziland to release them immediately and unconditionally.

Actionsrequested:

Please write to the authorities in Swaziland, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychologicalintegrity of Messrs. Thulani Maseko and BhekiMakhubu, as well as all human rights defenders in Swaziland;

ii. Release Messrs. Thulani Masekoand Bheki Makhubu immediately and unconditionally,since their detention is arbitrary as it only aims at sanctioning their humanrights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment -including at the judicial level - against Messrs.Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu, and more generally against all human rightsdefenders in Swaziland to ensure thatin all circumstances they carry out their activities without anyhindrances;

iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human RightsDefenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9,1998, especially:

- Article 1, which states that“everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, topromote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights andfundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”

- Article 9.3.c which states that“Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to offerand provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other relevant adviceand assistance in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms”

- Article 12.2, which provides that“"the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection bythe competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association withothers, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or dejure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as aconsequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in thepresent Declaration”;

v.More generally, ensure in all circumstancesthe respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with inaccordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and withinternational human rights instruments ratified by Swaziland.

Addresses:


· King of Swaziland, Head of State and Chief of Armforces, MSWATI III, Royal Palace, Mbabane, Swaziland. Email: hello@kingofswaziland.com

· Prime Minister, Mr. Barnabas Sibusiso DLAMINI, CabinetOffices, Hospital Hill P.O. Box 395, Mbabane, SWAZILAND. Fax: +268 2404 3943

· Secretary to Cabinet and Head of the Public Service, Mr. MbusoC. DLAMINI, Fax: +24043943, E-mail: dlaminimb@gov.sz

· Minister of Justice, Senator Mr.Sibusiso SHONGWE, Ministry ofJustice Building, 5th Floor, Mhlambanyatsi/Usuthu Link Road, P.O. 924, Mbabane, SWAZILAND. Fax: +268 404 5626, E-mail: ps@justice.gov.sz

· Acting Principal Secretary to the Minister of Justice, Mr. Siboniso MASILELA, Tel: +268 404 5159, Email: masilelasib@gov.sz

· AttorneyGeneral, Mr. Majahenkhaba DLAMINI, P.O. Box 578, Mbabane, SWAZILAND. Fax: +2684044796. Email address: matsebulasa@gov.sz

· H.E. Mr. MahlabaAlmon MAMBA, Counsellor, PermanentMission of the Kingdom of Swaziland to the Office of the United Nations inGeneva, Chemin William-Barbey 51, 1292 Chambésy, Geneva, SWITZERLAND. Fax: +4122 758 94 24, Email: swazimission-geneva@dslnets.ch

· H.E. J.M. Nhleko, Ambassador Extraordinary andPlenipotentiary, Head of the Mission; Embassy of the Kingdom of Swaziland,Avenue Winston Churchill 188, 1180 Bruxelles, BELGIUM; Email:brussels@swaziembassy.be


Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Swaziland inyour respective country.

***

Paris-Geneva,March 21, 2014

Kindlyinform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in yourreply.

Tocontact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

· E-mail:Appeals@fidh-omct.org

· Teland fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 4939 / + 41 22 809 49 29

[1] The Nationis considered as the sole independent newspaper which denounces abuse of power,corruption and political repression in the absolute monarchy of Swaziland.

[2] According to Mr. Makhubu, JusticeDitto Ntate Ramodibedi arrested Chief Justice Gwebu without bringing any formalcharges against him, denied him access to a lawyer, and deprived him from theopportunity to seek release on bail.

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