Mbabane – Global civil society alliance CIVICUS calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Eswatini members of parliament Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube as they serve their one-year anniversary in detention.
Bacede and Mthandeni were detained on 25 July 2021 following protests demanding political reforms and charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. They were also charged for flouting Covid-19 regulations.
The arrested politicians feature in CIVICUS’s global #StandAsMyWitness campaign, calling for the release of activists in prison or facing pre-trial detention after protecting and promoting human rights.
“CIVICUS calls for the immediate release of Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube, and all charges against them dropped. As MPs, it is their duty to peacefully demand democratic reform and speak out against repression. Freedom of speech is not a crime. Their detention has been politically motivated, fuelled by a crisis sweeping Eswatini. They should not spend another night behind bars,” said David Kode, CIVICUS Advocacy and Campaigns Lead.
Pro-democracy and anti-police protests swept Eswatini in June 2021 after the unexplained death of 25-year-old law student, Thabani Nkomonye, allegedly at the hands of the police. Over 100 people were arrested and the security forces were called in to stamp out dissent.
A Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit to discuss political unrest sweeping the country was due to take place on 21 July but cancelled
According to the statement, human rights defenders across the world are risking their lives for social, political, economic, gender and environmental justice. There are currently 21 human rights defenders in CIVICUS’s #StandAsMyWitness campaign – collectively, they have been in prison for half a century.
As well as Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube, they include Bahrainian political activist Abdul-Hadi al-Khawaja, sentenced after pro-democracy protests in 2011; Mexican Kenia Hernandez, an Indigenous land rights campaigner sentenced to a decade of imprisonment in 2022; and human rights lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov from Tajikistan, sentenced to 28 years in 2015.
“CIVICUS renews our calls to governments to release activists and human rights defenders. We urge people around the world to join the #StandAsMyWitness campaign and fight for their freedom – sign a petition, post on social media or lobby your government. Activists behind bars are asking you to #StandAsMyWitness” said David Kode.
So far, #StandAsMyWitness has teamed up with activists and civil society organisations across the world and successfully seen the release of 20 human rights defenders. Those released include Loujain al-Hathloul from Saudi Arabia, a women’s rights activist convicted for driving a car; celebrated Indian human rights lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj; and Kazakhstan’s Asya Tulesova, arrested for knocking off a police officer’s hat.