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Thursday, 29 May 2008


Swazi police have been criticised by the human rights organisation Amnesty International for the way they continue to use excessive force against criminal suspects and against peaceful demonstrators, including members of trade unions and political organizations.

In a report just published Amnesty highlights the case of Ntokozo Ngozo for special mention. Regular readers of this blog will remember that in August 2007 Ngozo was shot dead in cold blood by police officers while he was trying to surrender to them.

Police later claimed that Ngozo was armed when he was not.

The Times Sunday newspaper campaigned to prove that Ngozo was shot illegally. An independent post mortem was carried out on Ngozo’s body that proved that he had been killed at close range.

The newspaper contacted Amnesty International, a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights, for help.

In its report for the year 2007, just published, Amnesty reports,

‘Police who committed human rights violations were not brought to justice.

‘On 11 August, police from the Serious Crimes Unit shot dead Ntokozo Ngozo, who had told a journalist a week earlier that the police intended to kill him. According to witnesses, police called for him to come out of a house in the Makhosini area and he emerged naked to the waist with his hands in the air. He was shot in the thigh, abdomen and back at close range. Police delayed taking him to hospital.

‘The initial police statement that he had been shot running away was inconsistent with the medical evidence.

‘Witnesses complained that they had been assaulted by police, including Nsizwa Mhlanga, who was arrested and held until 16 August without being brought before a court. He was eventually released on bail pending possible charges.

‘No inquiry into the shooting of Ntokozo Ngozo had been announced by the end of the year.'

This was not the only case of police brutality highlighted by Amnesty.

The report states,

‘In April police forcibly dispersed supporters of the opposition People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) involved in a demonstration at Swaziland’s border posts on the anniversary of the 1973 decree which had banned political parties.

‘Protesters who refused to disperse were bundled into vehicles and removed, including George Hleta, who was grabbed by five armed police officers, one of whom throttled him before he was pushed into a police van.

'Six arrested PUDEMO members were charged with sedition, apparently on account of the wording on their banners, and held for 12 days. Five had the charges dropped and were released after paying an admission-of-guilt fine for “jaywalking”.

'However, Sicelo Vilane was held for a further three weeks before being released on bail. He had not been brought to trial on the sedition charge by the end of 2007. At the time of his arrest he was still receiving medical treatment for injuries and health problems resulting from being assaulted in police custody in 2006.'

In another case of police malpractice, Amnesty reports, ‘In September the Prime Minister received the report of the one-person commission of inquiry established after the High Court in March 2006 ordered the government to investigate allegations of torture made by 16 defendants charged with treason. The government had not published the inquiry’s findings by the end of the year.’

The Amnesty report also looks at a list of other malpractices in Swaziland, including children’s’ rights, violence against women, and denial of the right to fair trial.

To see the full report click here.

Amnesty International has been monitoring alleged human right abuses in Swaziland for many years. To read some of the organization’s reports on Swaziland click here.

See also

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