Swaziland: Activists detained ahead of banned protests

Authorities in Swaziland must ensure the safety of four key activists who were detained on Sunday evening in an apparent bid to disrupt planned protests marches, Amnesty International said today.

The arrests of the activists, which took place at a roadblock near Mbabane follow the Swaziland government’s recent announcement that all protests from 12 to 14 April are illegal.

Amnesty International’s Africa Deputy Director Michelle Kagari said:

“We’re deeply concerned for the safety of these activists, who are held incommunicado and at risk of torture. These detainees must be given immediate access to legal counsel and their families must be told where they are.

“The fact that several of the arrested men have been previously unlawfully detained, ill-treated and had police raids on their homes increases the concerns about their well-being.”

Those detained are Maxwell Dlamini and Samkeliso (last name unknown), officials from the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS), Sifiso Mabuza, from the banned youth organisation SWAYOCO, and Themba Mabuza, an organiser for the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF).

The sweeping ban announced by the Swaziland government on 7 April affects planned activities by a range of groups, including trade unions, and is a violation of the Swazi people’s right to freedom of expression and in particular their right to peaceful assembly.

Activists have planned marches between 12-14 April in protest at political, social and economic conditions in the country.

Political and civil society organisations in Swaziland regard 12 April as the anniversary date of the 1973 King’s Proclamation, which ushered in more than three decades of emergency rule.   

In recent days the police and military have set up roadblocks throughout the country in an apparent attempt to disrupt plans for this week’s protests and to arrest suspected organisers.

Early on Monday the home of at least one key trade union official was also raided and searched.

Michelle Kagari added:

"If tomorrow's march does take place, the Swaziland police must act with restraint and not use excessive force.”

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