Danish NGO demands release of Swazi democracy advocates
April 12, 2011 Leave a comment
In a press release issued today, April 12, Danish solidarity organization Africa Contact demanded that the police and security forces release the members of the Swazi democratic movement that it had abducted two days prior to today’s marches and mass-demonstrations, presumably in an attempt to disrupt and hinder any calls for democracy in the absolute kingdom.
“We fear they are being tortured,” the press release stated, as “on many previous occasions, where members of the Swazi democracy movement have been held incommunicado by the police and/or by security forces, there have been numerous credible accusations, backed up by e.g. Amnesty International, of police beating and torturing detainees by e.g. suffocating them with plastic bags.”
Africa Contact also urged the international community to “put pressure on Swaziland to release them” and the international press to “draw attention to this injustice.”
In a similar press release yesterday, 11 April, Amnesty International’s deputy Africa Program Director, Michelle Kagari had also stated that the organization was “deeply concerned for the safety of these activists, who are held incommunicado and at risk of torture,” and urged the Swazi authorities to ensure their safety. “The authorities must ensure that the detainees are given immediate access to legal counsel and that their families are told where they are. The fact that several of the arrested men have been previously unlawfully detained, ill-treated and had police raids on their homes increases the concerns about their well-being.”
Africa Contact Press Release, 12 April 2011
We demand that the Swazi regime release detained democracy advocates abducted by police unharmed, says Africa Contact
Swaziland’s brutal regime is presently holding an undisclosed number of democracy advocates incommunicado and we fear they are being tortured. We strongly urge Swaziland’s government to ensure their immediate release. We also urge the international community, including governments, NGOs and all others who believe in the rule of law, to put pressure on Swaziland to release them, and the news media everywhere to draw attention to this injustice, says Danish solidarity movement, Africa Contact, who has worked with several of these organizations for many years.
Amongst those detained are several members of Africa Contact’s partner organizations, including Maxwell Dlamini, President of the Swaziland National Union of Students, and Themba Mazuba, National Organizing Secretary of the Swaziland United Democratic Front. Both were arrested on April 10 together with several other members of the democratic movement at a roadblock in Sidvwashini near Swaziland’s capital Mbabane, coming back from neighboring South Africa, where they had attended a meeting on preparations of today’s demonstrations.
The whereabouts of Maxwell and Themba and the other detainees is not known at this time, even though lawyers representing them have sought relentlessly for them since their abduction. Their mobile phones have been switched of, even though they had agreed to be in constant communication with members of the democratic movement, usually an indication of police misconduct or mistreatment.
Police and security forces have been clamping down on the perceived organizers of the expected demonstrations later today, April 12, for days now, as well as holding the entire country hostage to innumerable road blocks and more or less random searches, and allegations of torture of those who they bring in for questioning already started to appear days ago.
On many previous occasions, where members of the Swazi democracy movement have been held incommunicado by the police and/or by security forces, there have been numerous credible accusations, backed up by e.g. Amnesty International, of police beating and torturing detainees by e.g. suffocating them with plastic bags. Pius Vilakati, a former student leader in Swaziland who is now living in exile in South Africa, told South African newspapers of his torture at the hands of Swazi police recently, and in the case of PUDEMO member Sipho Jele last year, the police have even been known to murder democracy advocates, wittingly or unwittingly.
As for tomorrow’s demonstrations, called by a majority of the democracy-seeking organizations in Swaziland, including the unions, the students’ organizations and the Swaziland United Democratic Front, Africa Contact also urges the international community to demand that the Swazi regime refrains from ”crushing the protests,” as Swaziland’s Prime Minister, Barnabas Dlamini said they would, and instead allow them to peacefully air their legitimate demands for democracy and socio-economical justice.
Swaziland’s constitution declares all members of political parties to be terrorists and its controversial Suppression of Terrorism Act defines terrorism very vaguely, thus in effect allowing virtually anybody to be locked up for any behavior not to the liking of the regime. This gives the police and security forces a virtual carte blanche to apprehend and mistreat whoever they see fit, and the only protection that ordinary Swazis have against such police abuse is the pressure applied by the international community, as well as by constant new coverage of its wrongdoings.
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