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Thursday, 16 December 2010


Thuli Rudd, the lesbian woman on trial in Swaziland for the murder of her partner, says she was tortured by more than 20 police officers who forced a confession out of her.

When she complained to a Swazi magistrate, the magistrate reportedly said he knew suspects were sometimes tortured by the police because he was a former officer.

Rudd told the High Court in Swaziland that officers at the Manzini Police Station tortured her during interrogation by tying her to a bench with rope and suffocating her with a plastic bag. She alleges that this happened after her arrest on 27 December 2009.

She also told the court that police officers, especially the investigator, Assistant Superintendent Aaron Methula, would insult her during interrogations, which took place over the course of two days.

Rudd was giving evidence in court during the trial in which she is accused of having murdered Pitseng Vilakati. Rudd denies murder.

She told the court that police did not initially allow her to meet with her attorney, Gigi Reid. She said that she reported her torture at the hands of the police to Manzini Magistrate Dumisani Mazibuko. She said Mazibuko told her that he was aware that suspects were sometimes tortured by the police because he was a former officer.

She said that he phoned the police and instructed them to transfer her to Mawelawela Women’s Correctional facility, but they did not oblige.

‘I was smelly and my arms were bruised. Methula insulted me with words I cannot repeat in court and I was degraded. My Lord, what I want to say is that I do not know who killed Pitseng. I was tortured in order to admit having committed the offence,’ Rudd said.

Torture by police of suspects is commonplace in Swaziland. I have reported numerous cases in the past year where this has happened. For details, click here, here, here, here, here, here, and here,

Strangely, as the US State Department noted in its 2009 report on human rights in Swaziland, although torture is prohibited by the Swaziland Constitution, ‘the provision prohibiting law enforcement officials from engaging in torture is located in the “policy” section of the constitution and is not enforceable in any court or tribunal. The law does not specifically prohibit such practices.

‘Security officials who engage in such practices may be punished, but no punishments were reported during the year [2009], and only one case was investigated. Security officers reportedly used torture during interrogation, assaulted citizens, and used excessive force in carrying out their duties. Reported practices included beatings and temporary suffocation using a rubber tube tied around the face, nose, and mouth, or plastic bags around the head.’

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