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#JusticeForThulani: ISHR echoes SouthernDefenders condemnation of the assassination of human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko

In solidarity with SouthernDefenders, ISHR supports the urgent call for an immediate investigation into the assassination of human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko in Eswatini, as well as the appeal for swift action by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) amid a mounting political crisis in the country.

Find SouthernDefenders’ original call here, and below:

‘As SouthernDefenders, we express our pain and outrage at the brazen assassination of renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko who was gunned down at point-blank range, in front of his wife and children at his home in Luhleko, Mbabane, on the evening of January 21, 2023. This atrocious, cowardly and cold-blooded act came a few hours after King Mswati had issued ‘stern warnings’ to those calling for democratic reforms in the country, and that his hired mercenaries would deal with them.

At the time of his death, Maseko was a senior member of Lawyers for Human Rights Swaziland, and chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum, a convergence of various stakeholders calling for constitutional reforms in Eswatini. As one of the founding members of SouthernDefenders, Maseko made an immense contribution to the advancement of justice and human rights not only in Eswatini but throughout the Southern Africa region. He has carried out several fact-finding missions to countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi where he reported on the deterioration of civic space in the region.

'A staunch believer in the rule of law and constitutionalism, Maseko used his professional legal skills to advocate for democratic reforms and peaceful transition. It is deeply saddening that his work and selfless dedication have been repaid in such a ruthless and callous act'.
Professor Adriano Nuvunga, Vice-Chairperson of SouthernDefenders

In Eswatini, many will attest that Maseko persistently preached the message of peace and love. In the face of great adversity, Maseko remained steadfast in the fight for freedom and justice, courageously raising awareness of the injustices suffered by the people of Eswatini. It is deeply saddening that he has paid the ultimate price with his life in this gruesome and callous manner.

While the government of Eswatini issued a statement condemning the murder of Maseko and its intention to investigate, SouthernDefenders asserts that, given the political environment, only an independent investigation can ensure that those responsible for the assassination of Maseko and many others brutally injured and killed are brought to justice and their families rightfully compensated. We, therefore, call on SADC, the African Union, and the international community to hold the leadership of King Mswati III accountable for the violence that continues to be meted against the people of Eswatini, merely for advocating for their recognized fundamental human rights, including political participation.

SouthernDefenders is gravely concerned that the killing of Maseko signifies an increasingly dangerous deterioration of the political crisis in Eswatini. It is terrifying to observe the monarch clamp down on the people it is meant to serve and protect. Eswatini as a member of SADC and signatory to its Treaty is bound to uphold Article 4 of the Treaty which explicitly states that the principles guiding the acts of its members are human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Article 5 of the Treaty further requires all states to promote and defend peace and security. SouthernDefenders reminds Eswatini that as a member state of SADC, its government should comply with the principles and guidelines to which the region is bound. The state of affairs in Eswatini is a clear reflection of the failure of the country’0s leadership to defend and maintain peace, security and transparency for its citizens. SADC cannot continue to stand by and watch.

As SouthernDefenders, we wish to express our heartfelt condolences to Thulani Maseko’s wife Tanele, their children, the Maseko family, and the human rights community in Eswatini. We reassert our support for and uncompromising solidarity with the people of Eswatini in their continued quest for democracy. We call on the greater Africa and its friends to stand in solidarity with us on behalf of Maseko. His unshaken commitment to the achievement of justice and freedom will be our beacon for all time.

SouthernDefenders strongly urges the Eswatini government to:

  1. Immediately allow for an internationally supported, thorough, independent and expeditious investigation into the circumstances of the killing of Thulani Maseko and others killed since 2021, to ensure justice and full accountability.
  2. Respect, protect and promote the rights of all under the jurisdiction of Eswatini to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and political participation even if they hold opposing views.
  3. Release all political prisoners and refrain from the excessive use of force to disperse protestors and refrain from the arbitrary arrest, detention, harassment or intimidation of pro-democracy activists and others expressing opposing views.
  4. Immediately end the violent rhetoric against pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders.
  5. Immediately allow for an inclusive and genuine political dialogue to usher in a democratic dispensation in Eswatini.

SouthernDefenders calls on SADC to:

  1. Immediately set up a task force or oversight mechanism to ensure a swift, thorough and independent investigation into the arbitrary killing of Thulani Maseko and all other pro-democracy activists in Eswatini, that have taken place since 2021.
  2. Hold King Mswati III and the government of Eswatini accountable for the ongoing gross violations of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force against protesters, abductions and extra-judicial killings of activists.
  3. To evoke Article 4 and 5 of the Treaty which clearly stipulate the principles of democracy, rule of law and human rights that guide the acts of member states, and the democratic and political institutions that are to achieve this, taking all necessary steps to ensure adherence by Eswatini.
  4. Ensure the government of Eswatini respects, protects and fulfils its human rights obligations, in accordance with international and regional human rights law and standards as set out in the African Charter for Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  5. Robustly engage with King Mswati III and his government, opposition and civil society leaders, and other relevant stakeholders in and outside Eswatini to urgently broker an end to the ongoing political crisis and the ushering in of democratic reforms.

Background on the Deteriorating Human Rights Situation in Eswatini:

Since June – July 2021, one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarch has been rocked by nationwide protests which began against police brutality but have now metamorphosed into sustained demands of democratic reforms, and an end to the excessive opulence of the Monarch, in the face of being one of the region’s poorest economies. In response, King Mswati III’s government has retaliated with excessive force, arbitrary arrests, detention, and abductions of pro-democracy leaders and protestors, as well as the shutdown of the internet, and blanket bans on protests.  More than 80 people have been killed, 200 plus injured, and thousands of others arrested and detained. Currently, two Members of Parliament have been arbitrarily detained for 18 months, facing criminal prosecution under the Suppression of Terrorism Act in relation to their involvement in the protests. SouthernDefenders has directly received reports of lawyers and judges being harassed, threatened, and intimidated for their real or suspected support of the ongoing pro-democracy movement. Just last month, SouthernDefenders assisted one human rights lawyer who narrowly escaped death after gunshots were fired at his car.  Fearing for his life, he was forced into exile, like many other citizens.

Despite efforts by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to resolve the crisis, King Mswati III has ignored the pleas of citizens, opposition politicians, civil society, the regional and international community, and instead escalated the government’s crackdown on dissenting voices. He has openly called for an “eye for an eye” and failed to genuinely engage in dialogue. Recently, the government was accused of hiring mercenaries to assist its security forces in suppressing opposition voices. Credible reports indicate that Mercenaries wearing baklavas, are working alongside State security forces, and manning roadblocks in the country. The existence of mercenaries in the country and the chilling remarks made by King Mswati III point to a state-sponsored assassination of Maseko.’

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Endorsed by the following civil society organisations:

  1. DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights
  2. International Federation for Human Rights – FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  3. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  4. Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
  5. Front Line Defenders 
  6. Panos Institute Southern Africa
  7. Center for Democracy and Development (CDD)
  8. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
  9. Centre for Human Rights 
  10. International Commission of Jurists – Kenya 
  11. Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR)
  12. Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network (AfricanDefenders)
  13. DefendDefenders 
  14. Mozambique Human Rights Defenders Network (RMDDH)
  15. University of Pretoria
  16. Zimbabwe Human Rights Association 
  17. Observatoire des droits de l’Homme au Rwanda – ODHR
  18. Seinoli Legal Centre – Lesotho 
  19. Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA)
  20. SADC-Lawyers Association (SADCLA)
  21. The National Association of Democratic Lawyers 
  22. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition 
  23. Plataforma da Sociedade Civil em Manica (PLASOC)
  24. Associação Socorro de Moçambique (SOCORRO)
  25. Faith and Hope Association
  26. Associação Moçambicana Sou Jovem
  27. Associação para o Desenvolvimento Comunitário
  28. Associação MW-Chimoio
  29. Associação Moçambicana de Mulheres com Deficiência
  30. Associação Dos Direitos Da Vida Humana
  31. Silver Lining Moçambique
  32. Tearfund
  33. Associação ADCEM
  34. Missão Cristã para Desenvolvimento Rural
  35. Rede Comunitária
  36. Associação AkA Power
  37. Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (BOCONGO)
  38. Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET)
  39. Human Rights Defenders Coalition – Malawi 
  40. Open Society-Africa 
  41. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  42. Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe 
  43. Freedom House 
  44. Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum 
  45. Regional Watch for Human Rights 
  46. Southern Africa People Solidarity Network (SAPSN)
  47. Letsema Centre for Development and Democracy 
  48. Ligue Burundaise des droits de l’homme Iteka
  49. Kenya Human Rights Commission
  50. KUTAKESA 
  51. Amnesty International
  52. Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI)
  53. Zimbabwe Human Rights Associate
  54. Ligue Djiboutienne des Droits Humains
  55. Zambia Council for Social Development 
  56. Yetu Infotech Collective 
  57. Defenders Coalition
  58. Réseau Nigerien des Défenseurs des Droits Humains
  59. Mqanduli community advice office
  60. Centro de Estudos Moçambicanos e Internacionais (CEMO)
  61. Raise the Young Foundation 
  62. ODIMA NGO
  63. Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders
  64. Centre for Women Human Rights Defenders in Africa 
  65. Southern Africa Women Human Rights Defenders 
  66. Political Prisoners in Africa 
  67. Civic Space Network 
  68. African Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders 
  69. Chapter One Foundation
  70. Gun Free SA
  71. Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement, South Africa 
  72. West African Human Rights Defenders’ Network
  73. KwaZulu-Natal Monitor
  74. Zimrights 
  75. The Good Samaritan Association
  76. LDDH Djibouti
  77. The Public Interest Practice 
  78. Integrity Magazine News 
  79. Center for Artists’ Human Rights in Southern Africa
  80. La Via Campesina Southern and Eastern Africa
  81. Swaziland Concerned Church Leaders
  82. Zambia Human Rights Defenders Network (ZHRDN)
  83. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
  84. Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly
  85. International Labour, Research and Information Group (ILRIG)
  86. Khulumani Support Group
  87. International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) CSO National Chapter
  88. Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust 
  89. Botswana Watch Organization
  90. International Commission of Jurists
  91. Network of the independent Commission for Human rights in North Africa CIDH AFRICA
  92. Free Press Initiative Zambia 
  93. Lumiere Synergie pour le Developpement
  94. Civic Commission for Africa (CCFA)
  95. Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice 
  96. Political Parties Assembly (PPA)
  97. Narasha Community Development Group 
  98. ProjectHeard 
  99. Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Center (EHRDC)
  100. Gender Centre for Empowering Development (GenCED) 
  101. Action for Civic Participation 
  102. Zambia Social Forum (ZAMSOF)
  103. Fórum Nacional de Rádios Comunitárias (FORCOM)
  104. South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network
  105. People’s Action for Accountability and Good Governance in Zambia (PAAGZ)
  106. Lawyers for Human Rights (South Africa)
  107. Kanye Independent Living Centre (KILC)
  108. Jamaa Resource Initiatives 
  109. Protection International Africa 
  110. Partenariat pour la Protection Integree-PPI/DRC
  111. Observatoire des droits de l’homme au Rwanda ( ODHR)
  112. Chitungwiza Residents Trust
  113. Vostile Creatives Trust 
  114. Jersey Farm Advice and Information Centre
  115. Associação Comunitária Matsatsi
  116. ActionAid South Africa
  117. Transnational Institute (TNI)
  118. Permanent Peoples Tribunal
  119. Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC)
  120. Associação de Assistência Psicológica à Comunidade
  121. Anti- Repression Working Group C19 Peoples’ Coalition 
  122. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders
  123. The Peace Centre 
  124. Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD)
  125. Centre for Artists’ Human Rights in Southern Africa
  126. REMAC 
  127. Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council 
  128. Haki Africa 
  129. AntiRepression Collective 
  130. La LDDH
  131. People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO)
  132. Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia
  133. Bridging the Gap Botswana 
  134. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders in Kenya 
  135. AIXARRA Restorative Justice Forum 
  136. Operation Young Vote (OYV)
  137. Associação Mwana Wamudhara
  138. Justice Access Point
  139. Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)
  140. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
  141. ACACON
  142. Cradock Advice Centre
  143. Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (REDHAC)
  144. Albert Luthuli Human Rights Advice Centre

Endorsed by the following human rights defenders:

  1. Arnold Tsunga 
  2. Prof. Adriano Nuvunga
  3. Lucia da Silveira 
  4. Tiseke Kasambala 
  5. Joseph Bikanda 
  6. Hassan Shire 
  7. Memory Bandera
  8. Alice Mogwe
  9. Corlett Letlojane
  10. Deprose Muchena
  11. Prof. Sishuwa Sishuwa 
  12. Roshnee Narrandes
  13. Washington Katema 
  14. Olga Muthambe
  15. Thapelo Ndlovu
  16. Simphiwe Sidu
  17. Meamande Wamukwamba
  18. Constance Mukarati
  19. Yared Hailemariam
  20. Jacob van Garderen 
  21. Charles Chimedza
  22. Jose Jaime Macuane
  23. Laswet Savadye
  24. Bongani Ngwenya 
  25. Sheila Nhancale 
  26. Laura Rwambiwa
  27. Keiso Mohloboli
  28. Zakaria Abdillahi
  29. Tatenda Mazarura
  30. Makanaka Makonese
  31. Tankiso Motipi
  32. Roselyn Hanzi
  33. Kamau Ngugi
  34. Gloria Madegwa
  35. Longton Jamil
  36. Regina Opondo
  37. Margareth Nangacovie
  38. Blessing Gorejena
  39. Annah Moyo 
  40. Lloyd Kuveya 
  41. Norman Lala Tjombe 
  42. Vusumuzi Sifile
  43. Fidelis Mudimu
  44. Thamsanqa Z Hlatshwayo
  45. Mark Heywood 
  46. Faith Munyati
  47. Mpangi Kwenge
  48. Martin Masiga 
  49. Munjodzi Muatandiri
  50. Thulani Mswelanto 
  51. Muzi Masuku
  52. Tabita Lilungwe 
  53. Guess Nyirenda
  54. Lepeli Moeketsi 
  55. Dumisile Shabangu 
  56. Felisberto Pedro Andreque
  57. Siphosami Malunga 
  58. Kumbirai Mafunda
  59. Justice Alfred Mavedzenge 
  60. Maxwell Nkambule 
  61. Busisiwe Zasekhaya 
  62. Ronald Chikwenhere
  63. Nomathamsanqa Masiko-Mpaka 
  64. Ashwanee Budoo-Scholts 
  65. João Nhampossa
  66. Francisco Rafael Gale
  67. Micaela Bungueia
  68. Henriques Henriques 
  69. Lungile Tshabalala
  70. Assimone Bonifácio
  71. Menezes Lino
  72. Georgina Nicolau Cauzande 
  73. Beatriz Augusta Roque Remane 
  74. Danilo Mairoce
  75. Pedro Tawanda
  76. Rângel António
  77. Belita José Ernesto Njirazafa 
  78. Felisberto Andreque
  79. Afonso Costina
  80. Dealton de Araujo 
  81. Raúl Maharate 
  82. Baltazar José Fazenda
  83. Edgar Jone 
  84. Antonio Muredzere
  85. Líria de Araújo
  86. Julia Wachave
  87. Isabel Próstamo
  88. Otto Saki 
  89. Aly Caetano 
  90. Albertina Armando
  91. Mitilage Nantica
  92. Félix Fernando chinanga
  93. Isabel Matos
  94. Boniface Cheembe
  95. Janet Zhou
  96. Godinho Cristóvão
  97. Whitney Mulobela
  98. Leah Diana Mitaba
  99. Sinah Teemane
  100. Mary Pais Da Silva
  101. Nikiwe Kaunda 
  102. Custódio Duma
  103. Annah Moyo
  104. Andrew Matayataya
  105. Vusumuzi Sifile
  106. Dr. Musa Kika
  107. Bennitto Motitswe
  108. Anschaire Nikoyagize
  109. Davis Malombe
  110. Munyaradzi Tsunga
  111. Dzikamai Bere
  112. Tawanda Mugari
  113. Me Zakaria
  114. Munyandilikirwa Laurent
  115. Barrister Tola Thompson Adebayor
  116. Monametsi Sokwe
  117. Joan Chirwa
  118. Stanley Nyamanhindi
  119. Ghalib Galant
  120. Danilo Mairoce
  121. Barrister Mayomi Afekuiah
  122. Ferosa Chaúque
  123. Dra. Sheila
  124. NAJi Moulay lahsen
  125. Esther Tawiah
  126. Alice Kuveya
  127. Rângel António
  128. Thapelo Mohapi
  129. Linda Kasonde
  130. Henriques Henriques
  131. Wayne Ncube
  132. Omardine Zacarias Omar
  133. Jone Arão Bambamba
  134. Maungo T Mooki
  135. Malven Daka
  136. Olive Moore
  137. Creva Pereira Gama
  138. Wilbert Mandinde
  139. Onkabetse Ketshabile
  140. James Bidal Asu
  141. Barrister Mayomi Afekuiah
  142. Gershom Kabaso Jr
  143. Thabo Masuku
  144. Mark Weinberg
  145. Obino Nyambane
  146. Dale McKinley
  147. Brian Ashley
  148. Shariff Bonnie Florencia
  149. Elpídeo FA Mutemba
  150. Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh
  151. Nyeoe Ntene
  152. Thozama Dyantyi
  153. Sifiso Dladla
  154. André Catueira
  155. Hassan Shire
  156. Líria de Araújo
  157. Jacob van Garderen
  158. Maurice Ouma Odhiambo
  159. Nzira Razao
  160. Gianni Tognoni, Secretary General
  161. Dzikamai Bere
  162. Susan Muriungi
  163. Maximilienne NGO MBE
  164. Maria Antônia Domingos Campira
  165. Mary de Haas
  166. Hussein Khalid
  167. Marjorie Jobson
  168. Yona Wanjala
  169. Fiona Dove
  170. Brid Brennan
  171. Mesud Gebeyehu Reta
  172. Melanie SONHAYE KOMBATE
  173. Nada Awad
  174. Bonsile Mamba- National Chairperson
  175. José Ivo Correia
  176. Yankuba Keita
  177. Frank Mpahlo
  178. Sofonea Shale
  179. Gift Trapence
  180. Adv Tankiso Motipi 
  181. Kanni Abdoulaye
  182. Hanningtone Amol 
  183. Robert R. Kirenga
  184. Pascal Mupenda
  185. S Nyembe
  186. Robert Letsatsi
  187. Ferreira Juliasse 
  188. Elisa Comé
  189. Kelly Gillespie
  190. Dr Justice Mavedzenge 
  191. Frans Viljoen
  192. Felisberto Pedro Andreque
  193. Olga Muthambe

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