A Principal Magistrate in Swaziland told police they must not assault prisoners in custody.
David Khumalo made his comments at Manzini on Monday (19 March 2018) after a suspect appeared in court with injuries all over his body. He ordered that he be taken to hospital for treatment before going back into custody.
The Swazi Observer reported, ‘The Principal Magistrate warned that accused persons are citizens of the country and they have rights too. He said they have a right to assist police with investigations but they cannot be forced to do that by being assaulted.’
Police denied assault.
Blessing Bakhe Maseko, aged 22, of Madonsa, informed the court through his attorney that he was heavily assaulted with a sjambok a while inside police cells, the Observer reported.
The newspaper said Maseko stripped his T-shirt inside the courtroom to show the fresh scars he sustained as a result of the alleged beatings he received from the police officers.
The Observer reported, ‘Explaining the bruises which were all over the accused person’s body, the attorney stated that Maseko has been left with injuries on his left shoulder, his back and is also bleeding through his ears. So severe is the torture purportedly carried out by police on the suspect who was in holding cells such that the suspect now prefers to be kept at correctional remand facilities as opposed to police custody.’
Maseko had been arrested with four other suspects on robbery charges.
There are numerous reports of police torture in Swaziland. In March 2017, A man accused of multiple murders told a court he was tortured by police for 11 days to force him to confess. He said he was suffocated with a tube and assaulted all over his body, resulting in many serious injuries. The alleged attack was said to have taken place at Lobamba Police Station, the Manzini Magistrates’ Court was told.
In January 2017, local media reported police forced a 13-year-old boy to remove his trousers and flogged him at Ngwenya police station 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.
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