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Swaziland Human Rights Violations of Imprisoned Activist Thulani Maseko

An Outrageous Violation of Human Rights

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights strongly condemns the continued mistreatment of human rights defender Thulani Maseko in Swaziland, who was today moved to solitary confinement and denied visitors, including from his lawyer, after the publication of a prison letter, marking the one-year anniversary of his detention on March 17, 2014.

“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,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “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.”

Maseko, a widely respected activist and human rights lawyer, has served one year in prison, after receiving a two year sentence, for publishing articles in a local magazine critical of the lack of judicial independence in Africa’s last absolute monarchy, one in which political parties are banned and severe restrictions placed on civil society.

Swaziland has traditionally received dismally low marks from both regional and international human rights groups. For instance, the kingdom currently has thirty-two laws on the books that restrict freedom of expression and access to information. Last year, due to longstanding and unaddressed concerns, the Obama Administration withdrew Swaziland’s African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) eligibility, joining only The Gambia and South Sudan as the three countries to have their beneficiary status revoked in direct response to the lack of respect for human rights.

“This week’s decision to move Thulani Maseko to solitary confinement is both dehumanizing and could be considered torture, said Santiago A. Canton, Executive Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights. “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.”

For more information on Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ work in Swaziland, see the petition sent to King Mswati III last year (attached below), demanding that he release all prisoners of conscience, replace the current Chief Justice, and take measures to restore the confidence of the Swazi citizenry, including ceasing the unlawful arrest and harassment of members of civil society and political activists. You can also visit our SwaziJustice website, which includes a video featuring Archbishop Desmond Tutu, actress Alfre Woodard, several UN Special Rapporteurs, and others, demanding the unconditional release of both Thulani and Bheki.

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