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Swaziland: Fear for safety / legal concern / prisoners of conscience

, Index number: AFR 55/001/1997

Simon Noge, Secretary of Human Rights Association of Swaziland (HUMARAS) and Chair of Swaziland Democratic Alliance (SDA); Jan Sithole, Secretary General of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU); Jabulani Nxumalo, SFTU Deputy Secretary General; Richard Nxumalo, SFTU President; Themba Msibi, SFTU Vice-President; and other SFTU officials and members: There is concern for the safety of Simon Noge, who was arbitrarily detained by police on 5 January 1997. It is believed that he has been arrested solely on account of his work representing victims of police abuses and as a leading government opponent. On 31 January the four other men named above were arrested by police. They are not known to have been ill-treated and they have access to their lawyers, but the charges against them are believed to be spurious. Amnesty International is calling for the release of all five men as prisoners of conscience.

EXTERNAL AI Index: AFR 55/01/97
UA 41/97 Fear for safety / Legal Concern / Prisoners of
conscience 5 February 1997
SWAZILAND- Simon Noge, Secretary, Human Rights Association of Swaziland
(HUMARAS) and Chair, Swaziland Democratic Alliance (SDA)
- Jan Sithole, Secretary General of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions
(SFTU)
- Jabulani Nxumalo, SFTU Deputy Secretary General
- Richard Nxumalo, SFTU President
- Themba Msibi, SFTU Vice-President
- and other SFTU officials and members
Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of Simon Noge, who was detained
in the early hours of 5 February 1997. The police who detained him did not
have a warrant of arrest and did not give reasons for the arrest. When his
lawyer challenged the legality of the arrest, the police threatened to arrest
the lawyer himself. Simon Noge was taken to Manzini police headquarters. He
appears to have been arrested solely on account of his work representing victims
of police abuses and his leading position within the opposition SDA. This
and the intimidating manner of his arrest have led to fears for his safety.
On the evening of 3 February, in the context of a trade union-led national
strike which began that day, at least 23 executive and ordinary members of
the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) were allegedly severely
assaulted by police and military officers when they were leaving a trade union
meeting at a sports ground. The trade unionists were taken into custody and
interrogated at Manzini Regional Police Headquarters for about five hours and
released uncharged in the early hours of 4 February. Amnesty International
is concerned for the safety of SFTU officials and other trade union activists
in the light of this incident, and an announcement by the Prime Minister that
he had ordered the police to "shoot to kill" to maintain law and order during
the strike.
On the evening of 31 January, Jan Sithole, Jabulani Nxumalo, Richard Nxumalo
and Themba Msibi, all senior SFTU officials, were arrested and held in police
custody before being brought to court on 3 February and charged with contravening
Section 12 of the Public Order Act (1963). They were remanded in custody at
Matsapha Central Prison, and are due to appear in court again on 10 February.
Their lawyer and others have been given access to the detainees and Amnesty
International has not received any reports that the men have been ill-treated
in custody.
The four men's legal representative could not apply to the court for bail as,
on 31 January, the Minister of Justice announced that the offence with which
they have since been charged falls within the scope of the Non-Bailable Offences
Act. The police alleged that the four men had intimidated bus owners not to
operate their businesses as of 3 February. However, according to press reports
on 5 February, the Road Transport Association publicly repudiated the police
claims and stated that at no time were they intimidated by the trade unions.
Amnesty International is concerned that the four men have been charged with
a spurious offence which has been made non-bailable solely for the purpose
of preventing them from continuing their trade union activities including
participating in the organizing of the current national "stayaway". At least
three of the four were arrested several times in 1996 and charged with various
offences but were never brought to trial.
2
Amnesty International believes that Simon Noge and the four trade union leaders
are prisoners of conscience and is calling for their immediate and unconditional
release.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
On 3 February 1997 a national three-day strike began, initiated by trade unions
to put pressure on the authorities to accede to a series of political and
socio-economic demands. The strike has occurred a year after a very widespread
week-long strike in 1996 over similar demands. Subsequent to that earlier
strike, King Mswati III initiated a constitutional reform process, apparently
to respond to the widespread call for the lifting of the state of emergency
in place since 1973 and denial of freedom of political association and assembly.
However by the end of 1996 no substantial progress had been made in the area
of constitutional reform and all political activity remains banned.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/express and airmail letters
in English or your own language:
- expressing concern for the safety of Simon Noge, Secretary of the Human Rights
Association of Swaziland and Chair of the Swaziland Democratic Alliance, who
was arrested without warrant or charge on 5 February, and seeking assurances
that he will not be ill-treated while in custody;
- expressing concern that he appears to have been detained solely for his
non-violent political and human rights activities and urging that if this is
the case he should be immediately and unconditionally released;
- expressing concern that police and military officers allegedly assaulted
23 or more trade unionists as they left a meeting on 3 February, and held them
illegally for interrogation for several hours;
- expressing concern that Jan Sithole, Richard Nxumalo, Jabulani Nxumalo and
Themba Msibi, all senior officials of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions,
are being held at Matsapha Prison after being charged with a non-bailable
offence, apparently for the sole purpose of preventing them from conducting
their trade union activities, and calling for their immediate and unconditional
release;
- urging the government to ensure that the policing of the national strike
is conducted within the limits of international standards regarding the use
of minimum force.
APPEALS TO:
His Majesty King Mswati III
King of Swaziland
PO Box
Lobamba, SWAZILAND
Fax: + 268 84468
Telegrams: H.M. King Mswati, Lobamba, Swaziland
Salutation: Your Majesty
Dr B S Dlamini
Prime Minister of Swaziland
Prime Minister's Office
P O Box 395
Mbabane, SWAZILAND
Fax: + 268 43943
Telegrams: Prime Minister Dlamini, Mbabane, Swaziland
3
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister
COPIES TO:
- Human Rights Association of Swaziland, PO Box 1546, Mbabane, Swaziland
- Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, Headquarters, PO Box 1158, Manzini,
Swaziland
- The Editor, Times of Swaziland, PO Box 156, Mbabane, Swaziland
and to diplomatic representatives of Swaziland accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 19 March 1997.

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