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. After such a long delay, the Human Rights Committee has scheduled the review of the kingdom in the absence of report. This review will take place in July 2017.
Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the King choses the government, the top judges and major public servants.
Andrea Meraz, Programme Manager at Covenant on Civil and Political Rights-Centre, said, ‘Few countries are reviewed by the Human Rights Committee in absence of State report. Swaziland will be one of these. Hopefully this review will foster Swaziland’s engagement with the treaty bodies.’
Swaziland has been presented with a list of 24 issues, including the relationship between King Mswati III and the Swazi Constitution, the 1973 State of Emergency decree that took power for the monarch, and the banning of political parties from elections.
Questions are also asked about protection from all forms of discrimination ‘in the public and private sectors’ in areas such as ‘race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and to ensure the application of those measures in customary law.’
The document states, ‘Please comment on the information before the Committee that the State party [Swaziland] is a country of origin, transit and destination for men, women and children trafficked for sex and forced labour, that forced and child labour are prevalent in the country and that orphans are particularly affected.’
Swaziland is asked to explain Chapter 4 of the Constitution which provides for different treatment between men and women regarding the acquisition and transfer of Swazi citizenship. One questions states, ‘Please specify the measures taken to ensure that discrimination against women is prohibited under customary law, both in law and practice.’
It asks for information and statistics on deaths in police custody and by security forces and on the Game Act 1991, ‘which gives conservation police personnel (game rangers) immunity from prosecution for killing any person suspected of having poached’.
It wants to know ‘whether torture is specifically criminalised’ in Swaziland and what rights a person taken into police custody has, including the maximum period of detention before an individual is brought before a judge.
Ahead of the review, CCPR-Centre visited Swaziland from 4 to 8 April to facilitate a consultation with civil society organisations and to meet with key stakeholders, including the Permanent Secretary of the Minister of Justice, Executive Director of the National Human Rights Commission, the UN resident coordinator and the United States and European Union Ambassadors.
In a statement, CCPR-Centre said the Permanent Secretary of the Minister of Justice had agreed to provide answers to the 24 issues.
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