The arrest and detention, trial, conviction and sentencing of two journalists in Swaziland ‘involved multiple violations of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Fair Trial in Africa and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,’ a report from the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has concluded.
Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu, ‘were subjected to unlawful and arbitrary arrest and detention, including violation of their right to legal counsel and their right to a public hearing,’ the hard-hitting 112-page report concluded.
Maseko and Makhubu gained international attention when in 2014 they were sentenced to two years in jail after writing and publishing articles in the Nation magazine that were critical of the Swazi judiciary.
They were released by the Swazi Supreme Court on 30 June 2015 after they had served 15 months of their sentences.
The ICJ reported, ‘All aspects of the trial, including pre-trial proceedings before the Chief Justice and the trial judge, involved violation of the right of all defendants to a hearing by an impartial tribunal. The defendants were improperly convicted, in violation of the right to freedom of expression.
‘Even had the convictions been proper, they were sentenced to disproportionately severe sentences, particularly in the case of the sentences of two years’ imprisonment of Mr Maseko and Mr Makhubu.’
The ICJ added that although the Supreme Court set aside the conviction it remained the case that Makhubu and Maseko, ‘were arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, including because from the legitimate exercise of their freedom of expression’.