UN human rights expert concerned over deteriorating rule of law in Swaziland

UN human rights expert concerned over deteriorating rule of law in Swaziland

The Government of Swaziland’s recent rejection of judicial rulings violates international standards and could have widespread negative repercussions, a United Nations human rights expert said today.

The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Dato’ Param Cumaraswamy, issued a statement in Geneva voicing “grave concern” about a press statement made in late November by Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini, who said his Government “does not intend to recognize” two judgments by Swaziland’s appeals court.

The Prime Minister’s move prompted the resignation of the entire bench of judges of the Court of Appeal, followed by a work stoppage by the judges of the High Court as a mark of protest.

One of the two judgments in question related to a ruling that King Mswati III had no constitutional mandate over Parliament for issuing decrees affecting the law. The other ruling dealt with an order for committal of contempt of court against the Police Commissioner for disobeying a High Court order.

The Special Rapporteur said the Government’s failure to honour decisions of constitutionally constituted courts is a “blatant breach” of UN principles and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Mr. Cumaraswamy charged that the Prime Minister “has pitted the executive Government of Swaziland not against just the independent Court of Appeal, its judges and their decisions but against the majesty of the rule of law which is the very foundation of a democratic State.” He expressed concern that this could hinder the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which requires participating countries to observe principles of good governance.

The Special Rapporteur urged Prime Minister Dlamini “to revoke his press statement, respect the judgments of the Court of Appeal and restore the rule of law in Swaziland.”