African NGOs urge ACHPR to act on Swaziland
Commission should push for democratic change
In yet another public blow to the tattered reputation of Swaziland's absolute monarchy, the African NGO Forum has submitted a hard-hitting list of recommendations to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) during its 53rd Ordinary session.
The NGO Forum referred to a resolution on Swaziland that was adopted by the ACHPR last year, which called on the Swazi government to - among other things - respect, protect and fulfill the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly; and take all necessary measures to ensure the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in 2013.
The NGO Forum proceeded to express its deep concern that "despite this encouragement by the African Commission and other intergovernmental bodies, such as the United Nations Human Rights Commission and the Commonwealth and the views of Swaziland’s own nationals expressed at the national Sibaya Peoples’ Parliament, the governing authorities of the Kingdom of Swaziland remain hostile to and intransigent on the question of guaranteeing human rights, in particular those of the freedoms of expression, association and assembly."
In addition, the Forum stressed that elections were due to be held in August this year but "citizens remain denied their rights to freedom of free political participation through political parties due to the Government’s unequivocal insistence that the 2013 elections will continue to be conducted according to the obtaining exclusively 'individual merit' and undemocratic system of governance."
The members of the Forum also expressed their concern at the increasingly violent "reprisals against human rights defenders, political activists and their families simply because they are calling for Swaziland to respect human rights and for the transformation of the current system of governance into a democratic multi-party dispensation" and the extent to which the judiciary has been compromised and is therefore "unable to effectively protect those whose rights have been violated."
Considering this, the NGO Forum called upon the African Commission to urge the Swazi government to:
- Ensure the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and conscience and especially that the elections to be held in 2013 are free, fair and credible in accordance with regionally and internationally set standards for democracy and as per the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and Swaziland’s obligations under the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections;
- Ensure effective and free participation by citizens and political parties, in particular through the reform of the electoral legislation and the enactment of laws that will enable political parties to register, operate freely and participate in the elections on a multi-party platform;
- Desist from harassment, intimidation, reprisals and the violation of the rights of human rights defenders and political activists as well as their families and end impunity for those who perpetrate these violations;
- Urgently pass an amended Industrial Relations Act that will allow the registration and operations of federations such as the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland;
- Comply with the provisions of the national constitution which guarantees fundamental human rights and commence an inclusive process of constitutional review in respect of the sections that do not conform to principles of constitutionalism and democracy;
- Domesticate the regional and international human rights instruments to which it is a State Party, in particular, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and United Nation Convention on the Prevention of Torture and Other Inhuman and Degrading Treatment; and
- Submit its State Party report to the African Commission as per the obligation stipulated in Article 62 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.