from SAMBULO DLAMINI in Mbabane, Eswatini
MBABANE, (CAJ News) – ESWATINI authorities must respect the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association as pro-democracy protests turn tragic.
Amnesty International has made the appeal following the reported death of a protester and the injury of seven others after police fired teargas and live ammunition at demonstrators on Monday night.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty’s Director for East and Southern Africa, said the protests unfolding across the former Swaziland were a result of years of denial of political, economic and social right to the people, including youth, and recent escalation of suppression of dissent by the authorities.
“Defending human rights and expressing critical views have been criminalized, and authorities have systematically crushed freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” Muchena said.
The activist said authorities must launch a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the reports of killings and injury of protesters by security forces, and to ensure that all those responsible, including those with command responsibility, are brought to justice in fair trials.
Muchena said authorities must ensure that force is only used when strictly necessary and proportionate.
“They must not use the violent acts of a few as a pretext to restrict or impede the exercise of the rights of those who continue to protest peacefully.”
Pro-democracy protests started last month in the Kingdom of Eswatini following the death of 25-year-old law student, Thabani Nkomonye, allegedly at the hands of the police.
Spearheaded by the youth, protesters are demanding political reforms.
The kingdom is the last absolute monarch on the African continent.
King Mswati III (born Makhosetive Dlamini) has been at the helm since 1986.
– CAJ News