News Release: Time to Overhaul Swaziland’s Oppressive Suppression of Terrorism Act, Say Local and International Organizations

> Freedom of Expression, Assembly and Association, Human Rights > Swaziland
Salc : Staff Writer

Johannesburg, 12 November – In a letter to Swaziland’s Prime Minister, 25 organisations called on the government to amend the reviled and unconstitutional Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA), which has been used to target opposition leaders and activists rather than ‘terrorists’ since its enactment in 2008.

“Instead of being narrowly used to target real terrorist threats, the STA is routinely used to suppress legitimate political speech in violation of fundamental rights that are guaranteed under the Swazi Constitution, including the rights to personal liberty, freedom of expression and freedom of association,” said Musa Hlophe, Chairperson of the Swazi Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations.

The local, regional, and international organisations are calling on the government to amend the STA so as to bring it into line with the Swazi Constitution. In particular, the organisations have urged the authorities to narrow the STA’s overly broad definition of ‘terrorist act’ and ensure that there is fair and adequate opportunity for organisations that are designated as ‘terrorist groups’ to challenge that classification.

In June, the then Minister of Labour and Social Security, Lutfo Dlamini, promised that the government would narrow the definition of ‘terrorist act’. However, the authorities have shown no sign of fulfilling this pledge.

“The Attorney General and the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs are given wide discretion to classify an organisation as a terrorist group,” said Simon Delaney, Media Law consultant at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which is one of the signatories to the letter. “There is a strong risk of incorrect identification as officials need only have reasonable grounds to believe that the group is engaging in terrorist activity – which is an impermissibly low standard. And groups have little recourse when they are designated.”

In addition to its constitutional obligations, Swaziland is a signatory to a number of international treaties, which place obligations on the country to ensure that its legislation, including the STA, adheres to international norms and standards.

“Although counter-terrorism measures are vitally important in any country, these measures must still adhere to domestic and international human rights law and comply with international standards,” said Sipho Gumedze, of Lawyers for Human Rights (Swaziland). “However, the STA fails this test. It is time that it was thoroughly overhauled.”

The letter can be accessed here.

The following organisations have signed the letter:

Amnesty International

Coalition of Informal Economic Associations of Swaziland

Constituent Assembly of Civil Society Organizations

Concerned Christian Church Leaders

Council of Swaziland Churches

Foundation for Economic and Social Justice

Human Rights Institute – International Bar Association

Human Rights Watch

Lawyers for Human Rights (Swaziland)

Legal Assistance Centre

Luvatsi Youth Empowerment

Media Institute of Southern Africa (Swaziland Chapter)

Southern Africa Litigation Centre

Swaziland Agricultural and plantations Workers Union

Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organizations (SCCCO)

Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC)

Swaziland National Association of Teachers

Swaziland National Union of Students

Swaziland Positive Living

Swaziland Rural Women’s Association

Swaziland United Democratic Front

Swaziland Youth in Action

Swaziland Young Women’s Network

Trade Union Congress of Swaziland

Women For Women

Women in Law in Southern Africa (Swaziland Chapter)

Issued by: The Southern Africa Litigation Centre

Further info: Simon Delaney, SALC Media Law Consultant: +27 83 397 0057; simon@delaney.co.za

Musa Hlophe, Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations: +268 765 40 647; mhlophe@me.com

Sipho Gumedze, Lawyers for Human Rights (Swaziland): +268 25052763; siphogumedze@gmail.com