Concluding a five-day mission today, an International Fact-Finding team of the ICJ observed that there are serious structural deficiencies in Swaziland’s justice system that need to be addressed systematically and in a structured way to ensure the country meet core rule of law principles.
The mission was conducted in collaboration with the Africa Judges and Jurists Forum, Judges for Judges (the Netherlands) and the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association, with the aim to assess the state of independence of the judiciary and administration of justice in the country.
“Current developments are merely the symptoms of a systemic crisis,” said Mission leader retired Judge Chinhengo of Zimbabwe.
“There is a need for officials from all branches of government to adhere to the rule of law. The effect of denied justice and in Swaziland has made many victims. Its effect on the community has been devastating, as it has served to undermine respect for human rights and trust in the judiciary to act as a check on the other branches of the State,” he added.
The decision to convene the International Fact-Finding Mission coincided with highly troubling recent events, including the arrest of Judges Simelane and Annandale, Registrar Nhlabatsi and former Minister of Justice Shongwe, and the continuing stand-off between suspended Chief Justice Ramodibedi and governmental authorities.
The Mission was also deeply concerned by the emblematic cases of the unfair dismissal of Judge Thomas Masuku in 2011 as well as the unfair trial and subsequent arbitrary detention of journalist Bheki Makhubu and lawyer Thulani Maseko (photo, on the right) in 2014.
The mission noted these developments were the culmination of a longstanding and deep-rooted systemic challenge that has to be adressed.
During its visit, from 11 to 15 May, the Mission met with key stakeholders in the administration of justice in Swaziland, including the Prime Minister and the acting Attorney General, the acting Chief Justice, the suspended Chief Justice and other members of the judiciary, and representatives of the Law Society and leading civil society actors.
The International Fact-Finding Mission will release a report with its observations and recommendations to the Swaziland authorities and the international community, providing concrete advice on strengthening the rule of law in the Kingdom.
Arnold Tsunga, Director, ICJ Africa Regional Programme, t: +27 11 024 8268 or +27 73 131 8411: e: arnold.tsunga(a)icj.org,