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Friday, 20 April 2012

OSISA WANTS URGENT ACTION ON RIGHTS

The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) called on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) to take urgent action to protect and promote human rights in Swaziland during its submission to the organisation's 51st session in Banjul.

In a statement, OSISA urged the Commission to work with states to scrap outdated, colonial era offences that serve to criminalise poverty and homelessness, and allow for arbitrary arrest and detention by the police.

In its statement on Swaziland, it said, ‘At the last session of the ACHPR, OSISA appealed to the Commission to undertake a mission to Swaziland to investigate the factors and issues that had given rise to the country's judicial crisis. No visit was possible and sadly the status quo has not changed, even though a compromise reached between the Law Society of Swaziland and the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs did at least end the total boycott of the courts by lawyers due to maladministration and court interference by the Chief Justice. However, the heart of the matter remains unresolved since litigants with cases against the King's office still cannot access justice.

‘But OSISA also pinpointed other ways that the people of Swaziland continue to have their basic rights curtailed and violated. Earlier this month (April 2012), the Attorney General unilaterally de-registered the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) as part of the government's concerted attack on any groups or individuals demanding genuine democracy and respect for human rights in Swaziland.

“‘With Swaziland's unique brand of undemocratic elections due next year, political parties remain banned, the media remains muzzled, civil society remains under threat, the police remain unaccountable and the electoral process itself is contrary to almost SADC and AU principles - except for being held on a regular basis,” said Leopoldo de Amaral, OSISA’s Human Rights Programme Manager.

‘OSISA called upon the Commission to visit Swaziland to ascertain the reasons for the on-going judicial crisis and to urge the Swazi government to desist from interfering in the affairs of the judiciary, pursuant article 26 of the Charter. OSISA also urged the Commission to ensure that the Swazi Government unbans political parties, officially registers them and amends the Constitution to allow them to contest for political power so that the people of Swaziland can participate in genuine democratic elections.’

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