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Swaziland: police stop people praying for democracy

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting decision at the weekend not to even mention Swaziland looks more ridiculous than ever with the news on Monday (31 October) that the Royal Swazi Police have even stopped workers holding a prayer meeting, in clear contravention of freedom of assembly.

Trade unions SFTU (Swaziland's main union confederation) and teachers' union SNAT planned protest actions this week about the continuing lack of democracy in Africa's last feudal monarchy. But a court order granted on Saturday (29 October) meant that the protest was banned. Instead, unions decided to hold a prayer meeting 'for the problems that have engulfed this country' including the highest HIV-AIDS rate in the world and, remarkably in the week that the planet's human inhabitants hit 7bn, a falling population. The prayer meeting would have laid the ground for the submission of petitions the next day to the High Court and the Ministry of Labour.

The prayer meeting was not to take place either. A totally over-the-top 250 members of the Royal Swaziland Police turned up at the Lutheran Church to intimidate the officials of the church into cancelling the prayer meeting.

When asked what law they were enforcing, the police said they were 'using their own discretion under the Public Order Act of 1963

Union leaders Mduduzi Gina (SFTU Secretary General) and G.M. Mhlanga of the SNAT issued a statement claiming that: "we say unequivocally that we are in a police state…we call upon the international community not to fold their hands as Swazis suffer in their own country. Surely it cannot be the spilling of blood that would galvanise them to act against the dictatorship we are iiving under?"

Owen Tudor 

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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