Swaziland: Arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Thulani Rudolf Maseko and Mr. Bheki Makhubu

Urgent Appeal

SWZ 001 / 0314 / OBS 023
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
March 21, 2014

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Swaziland.

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Thulani Rudolf Maseko, a human rights lawyer, senior member of Lawyers for Human Rights Swaziland and the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network as well as a columnist for The Nation [1], and Mr. Bheki Makhubu, Editor-in-Chief of The Nation.

According to the information received, on March 17 and 18, 2014 respectively, Messrs. Thulani Maseko and Mr. Bheki Makhubu were arrested under the same warrant, issued by Chief Justice Ditto Ntate Ramodibedi, on charges of “scandalizing the judiciary” and “contempt of court” following the publication of articles criticizing the judicial system.

The charges arise from articles written by Messrs. Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu in February and March 2014 in The Nation, in which they questioned circumstances surrounding the arrest of government vehicle inspector, Bhantshana Vincent Gwebu and criticized the lack of impartiality of the Swazi judicial system [2].

On March 18, 2014, Messrs. Maseko and Makhubu, who were expected to appear in court, were subjected to a private hearing in the Chief Justice Ramodibedi’s chambers, in violation of Section 21 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland, which guarantees the right to a fair trial. The accused’s lawyers were not informed that the hearing would take place in the Chief Justice’s chambers and were only present by chance. The latter remanded them into custody pending a bail hearing on March 25, 2014. Messrs. Maseko and Makhubu are currently detained in the provisional detention centre of Sidwashini in Mbabane.

In April 2013, Mr. Makhubu had already been sentenced on charges of “scandalizing the court” to a fine of E400,000 (approximately EUR 26,758) by the High Court for publishing articles that criticized the judiciary of Swaziland (an appeal is pending) and in 2009 Mr. Maseko was charged with contravening the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (the case was never brought to trial).

The Observatory expresses its deep concern about the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment faced by Messrs. Thulani Maseko and Mr. Bheki Makhubu, since they seem to aim solely at sanctioning their activities of human rights defenders and calls upon the authorities of Swaziland to release them immediately and unconditionally.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Swaziland, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu, as well as all human rights defenders in Swaziland;

ii. Release Messrs. Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu immediately and unconditionally, since their detention is arbitrary as it only aims at sanctioning their human rights 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 rights defenders in Swaziland to ensure that in all circumstances they carry out their activities without any hindrances;

iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, 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, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental 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 offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other relevant advice and 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 by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international human rights instruments ratified by Swaziland.


· 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. Box 395, Mbabane, SWAZILAND. Fax: +268 2404 3943
· Secretary to Cabinet and Head of the Public Service, Mr. Mbuso C. DLAMINI, Fax: +24043943, E-mail: dlaminimb@gov.sz
· Minister of Justice, Senator Mr. Sibusiso SHONGWE, Ministry of Justice Building, 5th Floor, Mhlambanyatsi/Usuthu Link Road, P.O. 924, Mbabane, SWAZILAND. Fax: +268 404 5626, E-mail: ps@justice.gov.sz
· Acting Principal 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 Kingdom of Swaziland to the Office of the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin William-Barbey 51, 1292 Chambésy, Geneva, SWITZERLAND. Fax: +41 22 758 94 24, Email: swazimission-geneva@dslnets.ch
· H.E. J.M. Nhleko, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, 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 in your respective country.

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