Swaziland: ICJ sends team to observe bail hearing of human rights lawyer and journalist

The ICJ, in collaboration with other organizations, has dispatched a team of lawyers to attend the bail hearing of prominent lawyer and human rights defender, Thulani Maseko and journalist, Bheki Makhubu on 25 March 2014.

The ICJ is working with the SADC Lawyers Association, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network.

Maseko and Makhubu were jointly charged on 18 March 2014 and remanded to appear on 25 March for a bail hearing.

Their lawyer was not allowed to make submissions when the accused appeared for initial remand, in contravention of regional and international standards guaranteeing the right to be represented by a lawyer in legal proceedings.

The accused were arrested after Chief Justice Ramodibedi issued a warrant for their arrest on charges of criminal contempt of court.

The charges arise from articles allegedly written by Maseko and Makhubu in February and March 2014, in which they questioned circumstances surrounding the arrest of government vehicle inspector, Vincent Gwebu.

The vehicle inspector had been arrested and charged with contempt of court after he had arrested the driver of a High Court Judge.

They questioned the integrity, impartiality and independence of the Swaziland judiciary in the way they handled the Gwebu case.

The legality of the arrest, detention and charges is likely to be challenged at the bail hearing.

The ICJ trial observer team of lawyers will assess the compliance of the trial proceedings with international standards of fair trial, including those of the African Union.

The ICJ has previously expressed initial concern that the arrest and detention appear to be arbitrary, and carried out in retribution for their exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

The ICJ also previously expressed further initial concern that the lawyer for the two was not allowed the legitimate exercise of his professional functions as a lawyer when the two appeared before the Chief Justice for the initial remand.

The team of trial observers consists of the following lawyers: Arnold Tsunga, Director, ICJ Africa Regional Programme; Martin Okumu-Masiga, Deputy Director, ICJ Africa Regional Programme; Andrew Makoni, Board member, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights; and Emilia Siwingwa, Deputy Director, SADC Lawyers Association.


For further information contact Arnold Tsunga or Martin Okumu-Masiga on +27 11 024 8268, +27 73 131 8411 or +27 78 234 9125.

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