Sunday, May 17, 2009

UK Govt hosts Mario’s Attorney

UK Govt hosts Mario’s Attorney
Sunday Times May 17,2009

MBABANE—Local attorney and human rights activist Thulani Maseko recently travelled to the United Kingdom on the invitation by the country’s Foreign and Commonwealth Minister, Lord Malloch-Brown.

This is contained in a classified letter written by the minister to leaders of a labour organisation known as Unite the Union, which was intercepted by this publication.

Maseko met officials from The Commonwealth Secretariat, Amnesty International as well as those from an organisation known as the death penalty project.

“In March the Foreign and Commonwealth Office organised the visit of a leading human rights lawyer from Swaziland, Thulani Maseko, who is defending the leader of PUDEMO, who as you note has been in prison since November 2008,” he states, in response to a letter written by Unite the Union joint Secretaries, Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley.

Maseko reluctantly confirmed the trip this week.

“It’s true that I went there and met a few people from different organisations to discuss burning issues in Swaziland,” said Maseko, who is the coordinator of Lawyers for Human Rights.

“I gave them a full briefing and we thereafter made projections to the future; how we envision the future considering the current state of affairs,” he said.


He said the main issue discussed was the contentious Suppression of Terrorism Act, where the common view was that it is used (or abused) in silencing dissenting voices.
“Such legislation is used in many countries, developed or underdeveloped. However, in our case people can see that it is not used to target real terrorists. In Swaziland, a terrorist is anyone with a dissenting view. Clearly, this (fighting terrorism) is an international drive that is now being abused by government,” he said.

He said the representatives from the organisations he met were interested in knowing more about the Mario Masuku case. “The focus on Swaziland is inevitably mounting, at least according to the people I met. The critical concern is to see Swaziland moving towards democracy using acceptable means,” he said.

He said that members of the Death Penalty Project are also interested in Swaziland, as the country’s constitution is vague on the issue of the death penalty. It is widely considered that the death penalty is still effective in Swaziland. “The constitution leaves this issue with judges to exercise their discretion when handing down judgement,” he said.

“They (Death Penalty Project) made an undertaking and commitment that action will be taken if need be,” he said.

He said it is important for the British government to see progress in Swaziland as its former protectorate.

“Above that, Africa has committed to multiparty democracy. Even SADC rules share the same spirit. Therefore, there is no reason for Swaziland to be different,” he said.

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