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Monday, 29 May 2017

SWAZI POLICE ‘TORTURE’ INQUIRY

A United Nations group is investigating the use of torture by police in Swaziland.

It comes as another suspect alleges he was tortured while in custody and had to have hospital treatment.

Swaziland ratified the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2004 and its initial report on progress was due by 2005, but 13 years later it has failed to report. After such a long delay, the Human Rights Committee (HRC) has scheduled a review of the kingdom in the absence of report. This review will take place in July 2017.

In a wide-ranging document the HRC poses a number of questions to the Swazi Government which was not elected by the people but hand-picked by King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

On the use of police torture HRC asks the government, ‘Please state whether torture is specifically criminalized in the State party, with appropriate  penalties, and provide information on whether an independent body exists to investigate complaints and prevent abuse and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials.’

The inquiry also asks for information on the permissible grounds for deprivation of liberty and there is a way to address instances of unlawful arrest or detention.

HRC says, ‘Please also provide information on the rights of persons in police custody, including their right to have access to a lawyer, the stage at which a suspect is allowed access to a lawyer and the maximum period of detention before an individual is brought before a judge.’

It asks for data on the number of law enforcement officials that have been: (a) investigated; (b) prosecuted; (c) convicted or acquitted; and (d) punished, and the nature of the sanctions imposed.

The inquiry comes as Suspected killer Lucky Matsenjwa told a court in Swaziland he had been tortured by police so badly that he needed hospital treatment. The Observer on Saturday newspaper (27 May 2017) reported he had been taken to hospital in neighbouring South Africa for treatment.

In March 2017, police were alleged to have suffocated Elangeni alleged serial killer and rapist Vusi Kunene with a tube to coerce him to confess to the crimes. The Times of Swaziland reported at the time, ‘According to Dlamini, the interrogation and torture by the police lasted for 11 days before he was brought before a magistrate to record a confession.

‘He was allegedly not only suffocated and tortured but was also assaulted all over the body.  As a result of the assault, Dlamini reportedly sustained serious injuries in some parts of his body.’

There are numerous reports of police torture in Swaziland. In January 2017, local media reported police forced a 13-year-old boy to remove his trousers and flogged him with a sjambok, to make him confess to stealing a mobile phone. 

In September 2016, women were reportedly ambushed by armed police and ‘brutally attacked’ by police during a strike at the Plantation Forest Company, near Pigg’s Peak. 

In June 2016, a United Nations review panel looking into human rights in Swaziland was told in a joint report by four organisations, ‘In Mbabane [the Swazi capital], police tortured a 15-year-old boy after his mother had reported him for stealing E85.00 (US$6). The boy alleges that he was beaten with a slasher (metal blade tool for cutting grass) and knobkerrie (club) for five hours. While enduring the pain, he alleges that he was made to count the strokes aloud for the police to hear. Instead of being charged, the boy was physically assaulted and made to sit in a chair for thirty minutes before he was sent back home.’

The report was submitted to the United Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Swaziland by the Swaziland Multi-Media Community Network, Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders, Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations and Constituent Assembly – Swaziland.

They also reported the case of Phumelela Mkhweli, a political activist who died after an alleged assault by police after they arrested him. 

The report also stated, ‘In April 2011, a 66-year-old woman was confronted by three police officers regarding the wording on her t-shirt and headscarf. The police allegedly pulled off her T-shirt, throttled her, banged her head against the wall, sexually molested her, kicked her and threw her against a police truck.  

‘The US Department of State reported on many allegations of torture and ill-treatment by police; including beatings and temporary suffocation using rubber tube tied around the face, nose, and mouth, or plastic bags over the head,’ the report stated.  

See also

‘HORROR TALE OF SWAZI POLICE TORTURE
POLICE ‘BRUTALLY ASSUALT’ WORKERS
KING’S PAPER SUPPORTS POLICE TORTURE
MORE POLICE TORTURE IN SWAZILAND
http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/2013/01/more-police-torture-in-swaziland.html

Friday, 26 May 2017

MBABANE CRIME THREAT CRITICAL: REPORT

The United States has assessed Swaziland’s capital city Mbabane as a ‘critical-threat location’ for crime in a report just published.

Street robberies are prevalent and they happen at all times of the day. Criminals usually brandish knives or machetes. Swaziland experiences violent deaths on a frequent basis. ‘Some of the murders have been particularly gruesome.’ Rapes occur ‘frequently’.

The report called Swaziland 2017 Crime & Safety Report from the Unites States State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security is published annually. It was updated on 8 May 2017.

On crime threats, the report stated, ‘The general crime rate is above the U.S. national average. Although criminals considered Mbabane and Manzini prime grounds for operation due to the number of people, businesses, and affluent areas, the rate of crime reported in small towns and rural areas increased in 2016. There are some local crime gangs but no organized crime.

‘Congested urban areas are particularly dangerous at night; and occasional daytime larceny has been reported. The presence of pedestrians should not be taken as an indication of a secure/safe environment. Suspects have found themselves pursued and beaten by by-standers.

‘Residential burglary and petty theft are the most commonly reported crimes, with street robberies being the most prevalent. They occur at all locations regardless of the time. Criminals are generally interested in cell phones and cash.’

The report added, ‘Criminals usually brandish edged weapons (knife, machete) and occasionally firearms and will resort to deadly force if victims resist. The general modus operandi of robbers is to target residences or businesses that have little/no security measures in place. They will use force if necessary but rely on the threat of force to commit the act.

‘While the number of murders per capita remains lower than some African countries, Swaziland experiences violent deaths on a frequent basis. Some of the murders have been particularly gruesome. Victims have been found decapitated, and body parts were mutilated or removed. Some are a result of disputes among criminal groups.

‘Rapes occur frequently and tend to be perpetuated on isolated/desolate urban and rural areas or roads.’

The response time of Swazi police to incidents is described as, ‘slow, if at all, unless the police are in the general area where the incident occurred. Police consider a 30-minute response time adequate, even in urban areas. Police are generally willing to assist but often lack transportation and resources to properly respond to, or investigate, crimes.’

In March 2017, the Times of Swaziland reported there was a great deal of concern in neighbouring South Africa about crime in Swaziland. 

The newspaper reported that Swaziland’s main commercial city Manzini was considered, ‘a haven for International crime kingpins who have become so sophisticated that they are supplying shops with fake cosmetics and counterfeit drugs’.

It added, ‘Human trafficking is also a crime regarded as a serious problem in the country, which led to a Parliament probe being launched following a high number of nationals from Asian countries being found in the country without legal documentation while others suspected of obtaining citizenship illegally.’

The growing of dagga [marijuana] was another crime that refused to go away, the Times reported.

It added, ‘These incidents suggest that there is a whole lot more criminal activity taking place than what meets the eye. As a country with one of the highest expenditure on national security, Swaziland should be a country no criminal should dare to set foot.’

In 2015, Swaziland was came bottom among 100 nations on factors that included crime rates, life expectancy and national police presence, in a survey by ValuePenguin, a New York-based global consultancy, according to a report in the Observer on Saturday newspaper.


See also 


SWAZILAND A WORLD HOTSPOT FOR CRIME
 

Thursday, 25 May 2017

‘NO CHANCE OF SWAZI POLICE UNION’



A suggestion from schoolteachers in Swaziland that the kingdom’s police should form a trade union will almost certainly be dead in the water.

There is a bitter history in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, of oppression of police union rights.

The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) said at a workshop that it wanted an expansion of trade unionism in the kingdom to include the police. The Observer on Saturday (13 May 2017) reported SNAT representatives suggested the police should follow other countries with a well-functioning police union system such as in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa in the region and form a union to engage in collective bargaining.

History is against such progress. A Swaziland Police Union (SWAPU) had been formed in 2005 and failed after a struggle for recognition when both the Swaziland High Court and the Supreme Court dismissed it as illegal. The Police Union became incorporated to the legally-recognised Royal Swaziland Police Staff Association.

In September 2008, the then Police Commissioner Edgar Hillary applied for a court order to arrest Khanyakwezwe Mhlanga the Secretary General of the Police Union because Mhlanga was illegally mobilising officers.

This was part of a bitter fight that continued for many months. In April 2008, Swazi police officers disobeyed their commander when instructed to arrest fellow police officers who were trying to hold a trade union meeting. So, the senior officers themselves had to try to break up the meeting. As they tried to arrest trade union leaders their fellow unionists freed them and they escaped to safety.

The Times of Swaziland (19 October 2007), the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, gave vivid details of the disobedience of the junior officers who were on duty to break up the meeting. They were given a direct instruction from Regional Commander Senior Superintendent Caiphas Mbhamali to arrest the unionists, ‘but they did not take his orders as they stood and watched’.

More than 40 police in total were at the scene to break up the meeting, but only 10 senior officers actually tried to make the arrests.

The Swazi Observer, Swaziland’s only other daily newspaper and which is in effect owned by King Mswati, ignored the event altogether.

Swaziland police Deputy Commissioner of Police Isaac Magagula had warned the unionist against holding the meeting. The Swazi Observer had the previous week (12 October 2007) quoted Magagula saying, ‘It is only with the expressed approval of the commissioner that police officers can convene or attend any meeting.’

Although SWAPU lost its case in both the High Court and Supreme Court there was one dissenting judgment.  High Court Judge Qinisile Mabuza said that existing regulations that banned trade unions were inconsistent with the Swazi Constitution, which allowed for freedom of association. She also said Swaziland laws needed to conform to international standards and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions.

The Times of Swaziland (30 April 2008) quoted the judge saying Swaziland needed, ‘to conform to modern trends in a democratic society in meeting the [union’s] expectations and fulfilling their constitutional rights’.

The Times further reported that the judge said that denying officers their ‘fundamental rights’ to form a union were, ‘repugnant to good governance and the rule of law, and particularly that the sanction for forming a union is dismissal, which is a disciplinary measure’.

She called the existing laws banning the union ‘old discriminatory and oppressive’. She went on, ‘They are inconsistent with Chapter III of the constitution. They should be declared null and void. They have no place in a democratic society.’


See also

SWAZI POLICE REFUSE TO ARREST COLLEAGUES
  
SWAZI POLICE ATTACK ON VIDEO

JUDGE BACKS SWAZI POLICE UNION