Pressure to amend Swazi terror law

Picture: Tracy Lee Stark.

Social justice groups have called on Swaziland’s government to overhaul that country’s anti-terrorism laws, which they said had been used to target opposition leaders and activists rather than “terrorists” for years.

In a letter to Swaziland Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini, 25 organisations called on the Swazi government to amend the Suppression of Terrorism Act, which they said was unconstitutional.

The organisations include Amnesty International, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, Lawyers for Human Rights, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre and numerous legal, civic, religious, youth and women’s groups.

The chairman of the Swazi Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations Musa Hlope said instead of being used to target real terrorist threats, the Act was routinely used to suppress legitimate political speech.

This was in violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Swazi Constitution, including the rights to personal liberty, freedom of expression and freedom of association, he said.

The local, regional, and international organisations called on the Swazi government to amend the Terrorism Act to bring it in line with the Constitution.

They urged the authorities to narrow the Act’s overly broad definition of “terrorist act” and ensure that there was fair and adequate opportunity for organisations defined as “terrorist groups” to challenge that classification.

Simon Delaney, media law consultant at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, said the then Minister of Labour and Social Security, Lutfo Dlamini, had earlier this year promised that the government would narrow the definition of “terrorist act’, but 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.

“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 .

“Groups have little recourse when they are designated,” he said.

today in print

today in print