Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

Amnesty International Report 2005 - Swaziland

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 25 May 2005
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2005 - Swaziland , 25 May 2005, available at: [accessed 28 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Covering events from January - December 2004

There was an unresolved crisis in the rule of law which affected the rights of victims of forcible evictions. Food shortages and an increasing rate of HIV infection were also serious concerns. Rape and other forms of sexual abuse of women and girls increased. Reports of torture by members of the police and military persisted and there were several suspicious deaths in police custody. Three people were under sentence of death.

Legal and constitutional developments

By the end of 2004, the two houses of parliament were deadlocked over amendments to the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland Bill. In October the High Court had dismissed an application from non-governmental organizations seeking to suspend parliamentary debate pending full consideration of a legal challenge to the legitimacy of the Constitution drafting process. Civil society organizations were also concerned that the draft Constitution would not protect the human rights of all Swazis. AI campaigned for the draft Constitution to be strengthened.

In September Prime Minister Themba Dlamini publicly withdrew a statement made two years previously by the former Prime Minister that the government would not obey two rulings of the Court of Appeal. The judges of the Court of Appeal, who had resigned in protest in 2002, resumed their duties on 10 November. However, the judges discovered that the government had not implemented one of their rulings, which had upheld the rights of people forcibly evicted in 2000 to return to their homes. Under pressure from the judges, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs assured the court that the evictees could return. One of the evictees, Madeli Fakudze, attempted to return home, but was again forcibly evicted by police on 14 November, reportedly on the orders of the King. Although Madeli Fakudze was later able to return to his home on terms set down by the King, other evictees remained internally displaced or in exile as refugees. AI condemned the forcible evictions as human rights violations.

The Criminal Procedure and Evidence (Amendment) Act (CPEA Act) came into force in September, restoring the courts' right to hear bail applications in serious cases. Twenty-two unlawfully detained pre-trial suspects, who had been granted bail following a 2002 ruling of the Court of Appeal, had been released by September 2004.

Some provisions of the CPEA Act, however, still infringed the presumption of innocence, the right to liberty and the right to information of arrested suspects. One provision denies the right of redress to those granted bail but unlawfully detained before September 2004.

International human rights obligations

Swaziland ratified the UN Women's Convention; the UN Convention against Torture; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It entered no reservations.

Violence against women and girls

Police officials and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) expressed concern at an increase in rape and sexual abuse of children and young women. In February, the Commissioner of Police stated that in one weekend alone the police received 12 reports of rape, with the victims ranging in age from five to 80. SWAGAA (Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse), an NGO, dealt with 160 cases of rape and sexual abuse between April and September, of which more than half involved girls. Many of the victims, particularly those repeatedly abused, developed sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Perpetrators included family members and teachers. AI campaigned for improved access to justice and care and treatment for rape survivors.

  • In July the High Court acquitted a police officer charged with repeatedly raping his seven-year-old daughter. The child had to give evidence and was cross-examined in open court. No expert witnesses were called to explain the impact of sexual abuse on a child. A week after the acquittal, the child was confirmed as HIV-positive.
  • On 11 September a group of about 20 men stripped and sexually assaulted an 18-year-old student at a bus stop in Manzini. Despite repeated requests by members of the public, police from a nearby police station failed to come to the scene. The victim was eventually rescued and taken to the police station where she made a statement before receiving urgent hospital treatment. Subsequently, three men were arrested and charged. AI called for a full public investigation into why the police failed to intervene to protect the victim.

In February the Commissioner of Police launched a "pilot project" to provide private interview rooms for victims of sexual violence, starting with the regional police headquarters in Manzini. In September the CPEA Act allowed vulnerable young people to give evidence in court through "intermediaries" and from a separate room.

There was limited access within the public health system for survivors of sexual assault to counselling, anti-retroviral drugs or other necessary treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection globally at over

38 per cent.

Torture and deaths in custody

Torture and ill-treatment by members of the police and military were reported. Several criminal suspects died in police custody in suspicious circumstances.

  • Mandi Hlophe died in police custody at Manzini police station on 2 April shortly after her arrest. The police reportedly claimed that she had committed suicide. Her family were not given the results of an official postmortem and no inquest was ordered.
  • On 21 May, 31-year-old Mandlenkhosi Ngubeni died at Matsapha police station within 12 hours of his arrest. There was a public outcry after photographs of his body were published. The Prime Minister ordered a public inquest, which had not concluded by the end of 2004. During the inquest, evidence emerged that the police failed to provide urgent medical treatment. A witness testified he had seen the police torturing Mandlenkhosi Ngubeni with a rubber tube pulled over his face. The results of independent forensic medical analysis were consistent with this allegation.

In April the High Court ruled in a civil damages case that the police acted unlawfully when they arrested, shot and seriously wounded an investigation witness, Thomas Mamba, eight years previously. AI could not obtain confirmation from the police authorities that they had ordered a criminal investigation.

Political trial

In June the trial began in the Mbabane magistrate's court of Roland Rudd, a member of the Swaziland Agricultural and Plantations Workers Union (SAPWU), and three other SAPWU members – Alex Langwenya, Lynn Dingani Mazibuko and Samkeliso Ncongwane. The four men were charged under the Arms and Ammunitions Act after being arrested during a trade union demonstration in August 2003. Roland Rudd was assaulted by police and denied access to medical care. The prosecution withdrew charges against Samkeliso Ncongwane at the opening of the trial, which had not concluded by the end of 2004.

Death penalty

No new death sentences were imposed during 2004. In its November session the Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and death sentence imposed on one prisoner, Richard Mabaso, in 2003. As a result three prisoners were under sentence of death at the end of 2004, all of whom had had their sentences confirmed on appeal.

AI country visits

An AI delegate visited Swaziland to undertake research on human rights aspects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

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