eSwatini: Avoid use of live ammunition and internet shutdowns in response to pro-democracy protests
Authorities in eSwatini must avoid excessive force and ensure freedom of expression and association in public as well as online as the country faces ongoing protests, said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) today
“Protestors in eSwatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, demand greater rights and rule of law,” said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, ICJ’s Africa director. “In a country where all political parties are banned, the public will naturally make its opinion known through demonstrations, as is their right.”
King Mswati III has ruled the country for more than three decades. Political parties are banned and may not contest elections. Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku declared a curfew from 18h00 to 5h00 on 29 June and announced that schools would temporarily close. The government has deployed the army to counter protests and to respond to reported instances of looting and street violence.
“The ICJ is concerned about the deployment of the army and cautions the eSwatini authorities about the use of excessive force against protestors including the use of live ammunition. We are further concerned that major network providers are disrupting and limiting internet access,” Ramjathan-Keogh said.
The protests were sparked by a decree banning the delivery of petitions to the government. As this is the only means for Swazi nationals to lodge grievances and communications with their government this caused great unhappiness and ultimately ignited the protests.
We call on the eSwatini authorities to guarantee the protesters’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association. These rights are enshrined in international human rights law, including in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, both of which are binding on eSwatini, as well as being protected by Sections 24 and 25 of the eSwatini Constitution, respectively.
The ICJ calls on the eSwatini government:
- To respect the right to freedom of expression and to desist from disrupting internet access in any part of the country.
- To desist from using excessive force against protestors and others.
- To ensure that all people continue to have access and means to deliver petitions to Tinkundla centres.
The ICJ also calls on individuals in eSwatini to desist from engaging in violence and criminal activity during any protest action.
Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, Director Africa Programme Kaajal.Keogh@icj.org +27 84 514 8039Press releases