Johannesburg, February 2, 2022 – The Southern Defenders, the largest network of human rights defenders and social justice organisations in the region, are deeply concerned by the escalating persecution of student leaders and other human rights defenders in Eswatini. The government’s heavy-handed clampdown on legitimate protest and dissent by students who are campaigning for democratic reform by exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
Southern Defenders condemn the state-sanctioned arrests of Swaziland National Student Union President, Colani Maseko on trumped-up charges of terrorism and the subsequent detention and brutal assault of Sakhile Nxumalo. We acknowledge that these arrests were not carried out as part of a legitimate effort to maintain the rule of law but rather in an attempt to intimidate activists who criticise the government and call for democratic reform. The illegal actions of the state violate the constitutional rights of the student leaders and subvert the international human rights obligations of the Kingdom of Eswatini.
We, therefore, call for the immediate release of all political prisoners including Colani Maseko, and the withdrawal of all charges that seek to penalise them for legitimate activism. We call on the Government of Eswatini to bring an immediate end to the intimidation and harassment of pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders.
Political activism has long been suppressed in the Kingdom of Eswatini through the implementation of repressive laws and the normalization of police brutality in response to protests. In recent months these factors have led to the killing and brutalization of the people of Eswatini whose only crime is to seek a better future.
For more information, please contact Washington Katema at firstname.lastname@example.org