Her Excellency Ms. Njabuliso Busisiwe Gwebu
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Chemin William-Barbey 51
Fax: +41 22 758 94 24
I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human rights activist and Freelance journalist.
I would like to draw your attention to the following case.
Since 19 March 2015, human rights defender Mr Thulani Maseko has been held in solitary confinement, where he is due to remain for a further two weeks. The human rights defender has been denied access to visitors, including his legal representative, as well as any writing materials. The human rights defender is currently serving a two year sentence for?contempt of court?in Big Bend Prison.
Thulani Maseko is a prominent human rights defender and a member of Lawyers for Human Rights Swaziland and the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network.
It is believed that Thulani Maseko’s transfer to solitary confinement is in retaliation for the letters that he has continued to write during his detention. Most recently, on 17 March 2015, a letter written by Thulani Maseko was published online on Okayafrica.com, a website dedicated to African culture, to mark the one-year anniversary of his detention. In the letter, the human rights defender expressed his appreciation to the thousands of people across the world who have stood by him and his family during his incarceration. According to sources, prison authorities stated that such writings constituted a violation of the prison code, although, to date, they have refused to provide the details of which provisions have been violated.
In August 2014, Thulani Maseko was transferred to Big Bend Prison, approximately 100km away from Mbabane where the human rights defender’s family resides, after he wrote to US President Barak Obama from prison ahead of the 2014 United States Africa Leaders Summit, seeking the President’s intervention in his case.
Thulani Maseko is serving a two year sentence in connection with the writing and publication of articles in the Nation’s Magazine that denounced the lack of judicial independence in Africa’s last absolute monarchy. He and journalist Mr Bheki Makhubu were convicted of “contempt of court” on 25 July 2014. Ahead of their first hearing, an international advocacy campaign #SwaziJustice was launched in order to raise worldwide attention and pressure for the release of the two human rights defenders.
I express me grave concern at the solitary confinement of Thulani Maseko, which appears to be a disproportionate retaliation for his exercise of freedom of expression. I am concerned for the human rights defender’s psychological and physical integrity as a result of the three weeks of solitary confinement. I reiterate my concern at Thulani Maseko’s conviction, which it believes to be directly linked to his human rights work.
I urge the authorities in Swaziland to:
1. Immediately remove Thulani Maseko from solitary confinement, and grant him unfettered access to his lawyer and family;
2. Review and quash the conviction against Thulani Maseko, as it is believed that it is directly related to his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities;
3. Ensure that the treatment of Thulani Maseko, while in detention, adheres to all those conditions set out in the ‘Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment’, adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;
4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Swaziland are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.
William Nicholas Gomes
Human Rights Activist & ?Freelance Journalist