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Swaziland (Eswatini)
31.03.14
Urgent Interventions

Extension until April 1 of the detention of Messrs. Thulani Rudolf Maseko and Bheki Makhubu

Newinformation

SWZ 001 /0314 / OBS 023.1

Arbitrarydetention /

Judicialharassment

Swaziland

March 31,2014

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), has received new information and requestsyour urgent intervention in the following situation in Swaziland.

Newinformation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about theextension until April 1, 2014 of the detention of Mr. Thulani Rudolf Maseko,a prominent Swazi human rights lawyer, senior member of Lawyers for HumanRights Swaziland and the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network, aswell as of Mr. Bheki Makhubu, a columnist and Editor-in-Chief of TheNation, considered as thesole independent newspaper of the country.

According to the information received, on March 25, 2014, Messrs.Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu appeared before the High Court of Mbabaneassisted by their lawyers. Their detention was extended until the next hearing,scheduled for April 1, 2014.

The decision to extend the custody of the two human rights defenders wastaken by Chief Justice Mpendulo Simelane, who is also the former High CourtRegistrar mentioned in the articles published in The Nation for whichthe two defenders are currently prosecuted. Since he might be summoned totestify in their case, the defence lawyers of Mr. Maseko and Mr. Makhubu haveinformed him of their intent to file an application to demand his recusal.

Messrs. Maseko and Makhubu are currently detained in the provisionaldetention centre of Sidwashini, Mbabane.

The Observatory reiterates its call upon the Swaziauthorities to release Messrs. Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu immediately andunconditionally, since their detention is arbitrary as it only aims atsanctioning their human rights activities.

Backgroundinformation:

On March 17 and 18, 2014 respectively, Messrs. Thulani Maseko and BhekiMakhubu were arrested on the basis of a warrant issued by Chief Justice DittoNtate Ramodibedi, on charges of “scandalising the judiciary” and “contempt ofcourt” following the publication of articles criticising 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[1].

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 them into custody pending a bail hearing on March25, 2014.

In April 2013, Mr. Makhubu had already been sentencedon charges of “scandalising the court” to a fine of E400,000 (approximately EUR26,758) by the High Court for publishing articles that criticised 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).

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 circumstances therespect 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 Arm forces, MSWATI III, Royal Palace, Mbabane,Swaziland. Email: hello@kingofswaziland.com

· Prime Minister,Mr. Barnabas Sibusiso DLAMINI, Cabinet Offices, Hospital Hill P.O. Box395, 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 of JusticeBuilding, 5th Floor, Mhlambanyatsi/Usuthu Link Road, P.O. 924, Mbabane, SWAZILAND. Fax: +268 404 5626, E-mail: ps@justice.gov.sz

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

· Attorney General, Mr.Majahenkhaba DLAMINI, P.O. Box 578, Mbabane, SWAZILAND. Fax: +268 4044796.Email address: matsebulasa@gov.sz

· H.E. Mr. Mahlaba Almon MAMBA, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of the Kingdomof Swaziland to the Office of the United Nations in Geneva, CheminWilliam-Barbey 51, 1292 Chambésy, Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 758 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 31, 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] 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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