Swazi youth leaders tortured during mass protests
April 16, 2011 3 Comments
Two Swazi youth leaders have been charged for allegedly possessing explosives that Swazi police claim were to be used for acts of terrorism during the recent mass demonstrations for democracy, rule of law and socio-economic justice in Swaziland. But the confessions to this alleged crime were made after they had been tortured, according to the Swaziland Solidarity Network.
Maxwell Dlamini is president of Swaziland’s student organization SNUS, and had already been arrested prior to the main day of protest, April 12, but was released before being re-arrested and charged. Musa Ngubeni, is a member of the youth wing of Swaziland’s largest banned opposition party, PUDEMO.
The two were arrested in Zakhele, a township in the outskirts of Swaziland’s industrial hub, Manzini, together with three others who were later released without charges, spokesperson of the Swaziland Solidarity Network, Lucky Lukhele said yesterday (April 15).
“The police claim they found all five of them in possession of detonators and cables for detonators but did not show them any of this material that they claim to have found. The police claimed that they were following a tip from an unknown person,” Lukhele further said.
“Further information provided by our sources is that the two who were charged were first tortured and then forced to write a report of what they had been doing between Friday and Wednesday, when they were released from being detained on Sunday. These reports were dictated to them and they were forced not to include anything that the police did to them – including the torture.”
According to Amnesty International, who has sent out several press releases expressing concern for the well-being of the many detained activists during the recent days of mass protest in Swaziland, they are not to be charged with the controversial Suppression of Terrorism Act, however.
“I understand that they are charged with a contravention of the Explosives Act No.4 of 1964, not the Suppression of Terrorism Act,” says Mary Rayner from Amnesty International, who could also inform that they have been remanded to Matsapha Central Prison.
Their legal representative was not present in court when they were charged because of incorrect information provided to the lawyer. Swaziland Federation of Labour Secretary General, Vincent Ncongwane, saw this irregularity as hinting at the real reasons for the charges, which Ncongwane called “unconvincing”, according to the Swazi Observer. He said that the allegations had been made “to cover up for the heavy-handedness the police applied against innocent citizens” during the mass protests.
Apart from being an incredibly economically unequal country, where two thirds of the population survives on less than a dollar a day and on food aid from the UN, whilst the elite close to the absolute monarch lives in luxury, Swaziland has an extremely bad track record of human rights abuses and lack of civil liberties. Amnesty International speaks of the Swazi regime’s continuous arbitrary detentions, assaults, ill-treatment and intimidation of human rights defenders and Freedom House gave Swaziland a political rights score of 7 in 2010, their lowest possible ranking.