Swazi government trying to crush union movement, says Amnesty report

“The rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly [in Swaziland] continued to be violated, with arbitrary arrests and excessive force used to crush political protests,” Amnesty International write in their 2013 Annual Report that was published today [23. May]. “Torture and other ill-treatment remained a persistent concern.”

Swaziland is an absolute monarchy where a 40-year-long state of emergency and oppressive anti-terror laws have meant that the space for peaceful political protest is virtually non-existent. The political space there is has been filled mainly by the unions, who Swaziland’s government have attempted to neutralize by de-registering the newly formed Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA).

“On the eve of its participation in planned demonstrations in April, TUCOSWA was informed by the Attorney general that it was unlawfully registered, despite registration having been confirmed by the Acting Commissioner of Labour under the Industrial Relations Act,” the report says.

The report also describes how this de-registration has been seen by the police as a reason to arrest, assault and threaten union officials and activists who in any way display affinity to TUCOSWA. “Police disrupted their gatherings, confiscated banners displaying TUCOSWA insignia, conducted arbitrary arrests and threatened union officials and activists.”

Amnesty’s report also describes the ill-treatment and unfair trials that union members and others face in Swaziland, including the “repeated allegations by accused in criminal trials that they had been subjected to torture, which included beatings and suffocation. Deaths under suspicious circumstances and the failure of the authorities to ensure independent investigation and accountability continued to cause concern.”

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