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MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on Swaziland, the case of human rights activists Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu

19.5.2015 - (2015/2712(RSP))

with request for inclusion in the agenda for a debate on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law
pursuant to Rule 135 of the Rules of Procedure

Charles Tannock, Mark Demesmaeker, Ryszard Czarnecki, Jana Žitňanská on behalf of the ECR Group

See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B8-0473/2015

Procedura : 2015/2712(RSP)
Ciclo di vita in Aula
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European Parliament resolution on Swaziland, the case of human rights activists Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu


The European Parliament,

–    having regard to the Cotonou Agrement,


–    having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,


- having regard to the press release of 28 March 2014 by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa on the arrest of Mr Thulani Rudolf Maseko and Mr Bheki Makhubu,


- having regard to the local EU statement of 1 April 2014 on the recent arrest and continued detention of the Nation Magazine Editor Bheki Makhubu and Human Rights Lawyer Thulani Maseko,


- having regard to the statement of the EEAS Spokesperson of 30 July 2014 on the sentencing of the Nation Magazine Editor Editor Bheki Makhubu and Human Rights Lawyer Thulani Maseko,


–   having regard to Rule 135 of its Rules of Procedure,



A. whereas human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko was arrested on 17th March 2014 following an arrest warrant that was issued by the Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi on his own motion after Maseko had written in the Nation magazine an article entitled “Where the Law Has No Place” criticising the courts in Swaziland, and whereas Bheki Makhubu, Editor-in-Chief of the Nation magazine, was arrested on 18 March 2014;


B. whereas Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu were convicted of contempt of court on 17 July 2014 and sentenced to two years in prison without the option of parole for publishing articles critical of the High Court of Swaziland ;


C. whereas the use of contempt of court proceedings to suppress the right to freedom of expression is a violation of international human rights law, and whereas the ruling and the exceptional harshness of the sentence without the alternative option of paying a fine was disproportionate and in clear conflict with Swazi citizens' constitutional right to freedom of expression;


D. whereas in addition to using contempt of court charges against its critics, the Swaziland authorities are actively using the 2008 Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA) and the 1938 Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (SSA Act) to intimidate activists and to restrict the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and whereas the authorities also initiated trial proceedings under the SSA Act against Thulani Maseko in September 2014, on a sedition charge first raised against him in 2009;


E. whereas Maseko and Makhubu were denied their constitutional right to a fair trial since the judge presiding over their case was mentioned in the articles that were the subject of the trial and was called upon to recuse himself from the trial, but did not;


F. whereas the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, said that the detention and trial of Mr. Maseko and Mr. Makhubu for their exercise of the right to express their opinion on a court case runs contrary to Swaziland's international human rights obligations, in particular under article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;


G. whereas due to the publication of a letter on the one year anniversary of his detention on 17 March 2015, Thulani Maseko was brought on 19 March 2015 before a disciplinary committee in prison without the presence of a lawyer and was then forcefully moved to solitary confinement for three weeks and denied visitations;


H. whereas the judicial harassment of critical voices in Swaziland is not isolated to the case of Maseko and Makhubu, but is part of a disturbing trend to silence freedom of expression in the country, where 32 laws place restrictions on freedom of expression and access to information, and political parties have been banned since 1973;


I. whereas on 26 June 2014 US President Barack Obama officially proclaimed that Swaziland be removed from the list of African countries which benefit from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), citing the slow pace of democratic reform and the country’s poor human rights record;


J. whereas Swaziland has a total budget under the EDF of €62 million for the years 2014 to 2020;



1. is deeply dismayed by the sentencing and the continued detention of Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu and by the recent developments after the publication of a prison letter;


2. recalls the commitment made by Swaziland under the Cotonou Agreement to respect democracy, the rule of law and human rights;


3.  urges the Swazi Government and King to:

(a) respect and promote the freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial, and the freedom of assembly and association, in line with the country's constitution and international and regional human rights obligations;

(b) pardon the convictions against Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu;

(c) immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience and political prisoners;

(d) ensure that the judiciary respects the rule of law and maintains its independence and impartiality;


4.  instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the VP/HR, the Council, the Member States and the Government of Swaziland.