A crisis in the rule of law and the unfair dismissal of a judge undermined the independence of the judiciary. Arbitrary and secret detentions, political prosecutions and excessive force were used to crush political protests. A parliamentary committee report highlighted the risks to the right to life from anti-poaching legislation. There was slow progress in repealing laws that discriminated against women. Access to treatment for HIV/AIDS was increasingly threatened by the deteriorating financial situation in the country.
The government’s financial situation deteriorated dramatically. Its efforts to secure loans from various sources were not successful, partly due to its failure to implement fiscal reforms, and its unwillingness to accept conditions, including instituting political reforms, within agreed time frames. The government ignored renewed efforts by civil society organizations to open a dialogue on steps towards multi-party democracy. At the UN Universal Periodic Review hearing on Swaziland in October, the government rejected recommendations to allow political parties to participate in elections.Top of page
Access to fair and impartial tribunals, including for victims of human rights violations, was increasingly restricted by a developing crisis in the rule of law. Restrictions, in the form of a “practice directive”, implemented in the higher courts under the authority of the Chief Justice, made access to the courts difficult or impossible for civil litigants in cases in which the King was indirectly affected as a defendant. Another directive placed control over the daily allocation of cases for hearings, including urgent ones, exclusively in the hands of the Chief Justice, whose appointment on a temporary contract was authorized by the King. The restrictions created a bias in the administration of justice, leaving some litigants or defendants in criminal proceedings without access to the courts or to a fair hearing. In August, the Law Society of Swaziland launched a boycott of the courts in protest at these developments and the authorities’ failure to institute a proper hearing into its complaints regarding the running of the courts and the conduct of the Chief Justice. In the following weeks it delivered a petition to the Minister of Justice appealing for action. Lawyers’ protests near the High Court building were dispersed on several occasions by armed police. In November, the Law Society temporarily suspended its boycott following discussions with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). However, the majority of the Law Society’s complaints remained unresolved.
The Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration completed its second year without enabling legislation. It still lacked sufficient staff and accessible premises.Top of page
In April, the government banned protest marches planned for 12 to 14 April by trade unions and other organizations. Arbitrary and secret detentions, unlawful house arrests and other state of emergency-style measures were used to crush peaceful anti-government protests over several days. Officials from the Swaziland National Union of Students and from banned organizations were among those detained.
The police used excessive force to disperse demonstrators.
In August a parliamentary committee, appointed to investigate alleged brutality by game rangers against suspected poachers, submitted its conclusions and recommendations to parliament. The committee had investigated violent incidents resulting in the deaths and injuries of suspected poachers and of game rangers. The report listed nine incidents against game rangers and 33 against suspected poachers. The majority of cases were either still under police investigation, or with the prosecutor’s office or pending in court. Some suspected poachers injured by game rangers were then prosecuted under the Game Act (as amended). No game rangers were prosecuted for fatal or non-fatal shootings. The committee recommended urgent reform of clauses in the Game Act (as amended), which could be interpreted to “condone brutality towards suspect poachers”.Top of page
The coroner, Nondumiso Simelane, appointed to investigate the May 2010 death in custody of political activist Sipho Jele, presented her report to the Prime Minister in March. The report had not been made public by the end of the year.
The Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill was debated in parliament but had not been enacted by the end of the year.
In June, the government tabled the Deeds Registry (Amendment) Bill in parliament, in response to a Supreme Court order in May 2010 to amend an unconstitutional provision in the law preventing most women married under civil law from legally registering homes or other immovable property in their own name. The bill, which did not contain sufficient safeguards, had not been enacted by the end of the year.
The Citizenship Bill presented to parliament contained provisions that discriminated against women, denying them the right to pass on their Swazi citizenship to their children or to their non-Swazi spouses.Top of page
At the October Universal Periodic Review hearing, the government rejected recommendations that it decriminalize same-sex relations and prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation.Top of page
HIV prevalence remained “exceedingly high” but appeared to be “levelling off”, according to UNAIDS. According to the government’s report submitted in July for the Universal Periodic Review, 85 per cent of facilities offering antenatal services also offered treatment to prevent HIV transmission from mother to child. The government also announced it had adopted the WHO guidelines for initiation on antiretroviral treatment at an earlier stage in the disease. Some 65,000 people were receiving treatment by November.
However, access to and remaining on treatment was still difficult for some patients due to poverty, lack of transport in rural areas, food insecurity, poor drug procurement procedures and lack of funding because of the country’s poor financial management.Top of page
Although the 2006 Constitution permits the use of capital punishment, no executions had been carried out since 1983.
Two other people remained under sentence of death. In October, at the country’s Universal Periodic Review hearing, the government described Swaziland as “abolitionist in practice”, but stated that a “national debate” was necessary before the death penalty could be abolished in law.Top of page