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Swaziland: Landmark court ruling against repressive laws a victory for human rights

    September 16, 2016

    In reaction to the High Court of Swaziland today declaring sections of the 1938 Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (SSA Act) and the 2008 Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) unconstitutional, Amnesty International said.

    “The court ruling is a victory for human rights, especially for freedom of expression and association,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.

    “For far too long, the Swazi authorities have used these oppressive laws to silence opponents of the government.”

    “Today’s landmark judgement, although a positive step forward, is a painful reminder of the injustices that have been meted out by the Swazi authorities through the use of these laws in the past.”

    Background

    Freedom of expression is protected in the Swazi Constitution, as well as in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – international instruments that Swaziland is a party to.

    Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (SSA Act)

    The applicants argue that the definition of “subversion” in the 1938 Sedition and Subversive Activities Act is too broad and covers conduct that should be legitimately protected under the right to freedom of expression. The SSA was enacted in 1938 by Swaziland’s former coloniser, Britain.

    Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA)

    The applicants argue that the definition of terrorism in the Swazi legislation does not meet the internationally accepted definition because it includes conduct that is not violent nor motivated by an intent to create fear or compel specific official action.

    Swaziland is known for its long track record of lack of respect for human rights and Amnesty International has raised these before:

    https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/09/swaziland-independence-marred-by-human-rights-violations-and-crackdown-on-dissent/

     

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