Swaziland: Release Human Rights Defender and Journalist

The Swaziland authorities should immediately release Mr. Thulani Maseko and Mr. Bheki Makhubu, the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network said today. The human rights lawyer and journalist were arrested on Monday 17th March 2014, reportedly in response to articles published in a national magazine.

Mr. Maseko is a prominent human rights lawyer working at the national and regional levels, a senior member of Lawyers for Human Rights Swaziland and the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network, which is part of the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network. Mr. Makhubu is the Editor-in-Chief of the Nation. The two men were arrested under the same warrant, issued by Chief Justice Ramodibedi, on charges of “scandalizing the judiciary” and contempt of court.

Mr. Maseko and Mr. Makhubu’s lawyer was not permitted to represent the pair when they were jointly charged on 18th March 2014. They have been remanded pending a bail hearing on 24th March 2014. The Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network calls on the Swaziland authorities to ensure that international and regional human rights standards are respected and to allow the two men immediate access to their lawyer.

The charges are apparently in relation to articles published in the Nation Magazine questioning the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Chief Government Vehicle Inspector, Bhantshana Gwebu. Mr. Gwebu had been arrested and charged with contempt of court after he arrested the driver of a High Court judge.

As an absolute monarchy, the King of Swaziland has the discretionary power to suspend constitutional rights such as freedom of expression and in practice these rights are frequently curtailed. Mr. Maseko has previously been charged with sedition for public statements made.

“Human rights defenders must be able to speak out on issues of public interest,” said Mr Hassan Shire, Chairperson of the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network. “We call on the Swaziland authorities to drop the charges against Mr Maseko and Mr Makhubu and allow them to continue with their important work.”

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Hassan Shire, Chairperson on [email protected] or +256 772 753 753

Mr. Joseph Bikanda, Coordinator on [email protected]

Ms. Rachel Nicholson, Advocacy and Research Manager on [email protected] or +256 778 921 274.


Human Rights Defender of the month: Alex Njenga John

Alex Njenga has always believed in egalitarianism both as a principle and as a tool for justice. As a result, he has always been suspicious of, and at times hostile to social prejudices that treat some people as “more equal than others,” – to use a line from George Orwell’s famed political fable, Animal Farm.

Some of the experiences that have shaped his social and political outlook have been personal. As an adolescent in Kenya’s Uasin Gishu County, Alex was stigmatised and denied healthcare after he identified himself as belonging to Kenya’s sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) community.