Eswatini: Respect democratic rights and stop violence against peaceful protesters

Eswatini authorities must stop the brutal repression of peaceful protesters and respect the rights of people to demand democratic reform. CIVICUS calls on the authorities in Eswatini to protect the right to protest, which is enshrined in the Eswatini constitution and in international human rights law.

The Kingdom of Swaziland is using extreme violence to suppress people protesting the repressive governance of King Mswati III and the absence of the rule of law. More than 24 people directly and indirectly involved in the protests have been killed and over 74 injured. Military forces continue to drag people from their homes and subject them to brutal attacks, even targeting those not involved in the protests.

“The government of Eswatini must respect the right of people to engage in peaceful protest, as enshrined in the Eswatini constitution and international human rights frameworks. The current wave of protests is a culmination of decades of repressive rule – over the years, the authorities have flouted the rule of law leading to a total breakdown in formal democratic processes,” said Paul Mulindwa, Advocacy and Campaigns Africa Lead for CIVICUS.

The Eswatini authorities continue to disrupt online communications and completely shut down the internet on 29 June 2021. Restrictions on access to information violate the right to free speech. We urge the Eswatini authorities to immediately restore full access to the internet and social media, and to stop future disruptions.

CIVICUS urges the South African Development Community (SADC) to urgently call for an end to violence and to hold the Eswatini authorities accountable for human rights violations.

Background

King Mswati III is Africa’s last remaining absolute monarch and has ruled the kingdom since 1986. Political parties were banned in Eswatini in 1973 and are not allowed to participate in national elections. Ahead of Eswatini’s elections in April 2021, the authorities imposed a ban on peaceful protests to deter members of civil society and the political opposition from protesting presidential elections. Activists accuse the king of running a repressive government and evading calls for reform in Eswatini. The king has also been accused of using public funds to finance the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by him and his relations and acquaintances. Protesters are calling for the establishment of a republic with a government led by democratically elected leaders and representatives.

Eswatini is rated as ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, our online platform that measures the state of civic freedoms in all countries.

 

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