OHCHR expresses deep concern over reported deaths of demonstrators in the Kingdom of Eswatini |
The unrest first began in Africa’s last absolute monarchy, in May, when students took to the streets to demand accountability for the death of a 25-year-old law student, allegedly at the hands of the police .
In late June, these protests turned into daily pro-democracy marches in several parts of the Kingdom, with protesters expressing deep-seated political and economic grievances, said OHCHR, during the regular briefing for journalists at the UN in Geneva.
Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, gained independence 53 years ago and is ruled by King Mswati III. He chooses the Prime Minister and the cabinet, and has the power to dissolve Parliament.
“Unnecessary” use of force
OHCHR spokesperson Liz Throssell said her office had received allegations of “disproportionate and unnecessary use of force”, harassment and intimidation by security forces, including the use of live ammunition by the police.
She urged the authorities in Eswatini to “fully adhere to the principles of human rights by restoring calm and the rule of law, in particular the obligation to minimize any use of force.
“We also call on the government to ensure that there are prompt, transparent, effective, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of human rights violations,” she added, “including those carried out by security forces in the context of demonstrations, and that those responsible are held to account.
She reminded the authorities that peaceful protests are protected under international human rights law, “including under article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which the Kingdom of Eswatini is a State Party.
The OHCHR spokesperson also expressed concern at reports that internet services were disrupted last week and called on the authorities “to take all measures to ensure that internet access is not blocked” .
Ms. Throssell urged the Kingdom government “to engage in a longer-term dialogue to disseminate and address the underlying public concerns that have given rise to these recent protests.”
“We remain committed to working with the government of Eswatini to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights, including support and guidance in the implementation of the recommendations of the human rights mechanisms of United Nations, in particular by guaranteeing the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and freedom of association, as well as the right of individuals to participate in the conduct of public affairs.