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Thursday, 8 January 2009


Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini has criticised the human rights organisation Amnesty International for condemning the kingdom’s Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA).

Dlamini, in a statement ahead of the release of Amnesty’s report today (8 January 2009), said such criticisms ‘confuse’ people.

The Amnesty report (available here) is a detailed critique of just about every section of the STA. Amnesty concludes that the provisions of the STA ‘threaten human rights, are inherently repressive, breach Swaziland’s obligations under international and regional human rights laws and the Swaziland Constitution, and are already leading to violations of the rights of freedom of expression, association and assembly.’

Amnesty has called for the ‘repeal or immediate amendment’ of the STA.

Barnabas Dlamini has chosen to ignore the Amnesty criticism and instead blamed what he called international ‘experts’ for confusing people.

As I wrote on Tuesday (6 January 2009) whenever Swaziland’s ruling elite is criticised for its poor record on human rights and governance it ignores the criticism and instead blames the messenger.

Dlamini is reported in the Times of Swaziland today (8 January 2009) saying that Swaziland ‘never initiated the enactment of this legislation but the United Nations did so, yet experts like Amnesty International and the International Bar Association have been quick to point accusing fingers at the country.’

Of course, Dlamini is not telling the truth. The drafting and enactment of the STA is entirely a local affair. The Swazi Government and the MPs who passed the bill cannot say they were acting on orders from experts overseas.

Amnesty offers a blow by blow account of the deficiencies of the STA and they are far too many to record here, but top of the list must be Swaziland’s failure to even define what a ‘terrorist act’ is. The STA definition is so broad that many ‘ordinary’ criminal acts such as setting off a fire alarm as a prank could be considered ‘terrorism’.

Amnesty have identified in a clear, precise, critique of the STA that it is a repressive law that should be repealed or amended after widespread public consultation.

That won’t happen. The Swazi Government and its Prime Minister, who has a record of human rights violations as long as your arm, won’t allow it.

Dlamini can claim that the STA meets United Nations standards, but we know that isn’t true. Dlamini is an illegitimate Prime Minister who is using an illegitimate piece of legislation to allow him and his cronies to cling on to power.

But, now he has been found out.

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