Swazi King slammed over interference with judiciary

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King Mswati III

«Hans off my dispositions!»

King Mswati III

afrol News, 4 November - Swaziland's totalitarian King Mswati III again is the target of international critiques after he ordered a court to stop preceding a case against himself. The King is to have abducted a young girl for potential marriage and neither her mother nor her mother's lawyers have been able to speak to her.

Today, the human rights group Amnesty International stated its protest and grave concerns about "the recent attempt by agents of Swaziland Head of State King Mswati III to undermine the independence of the judiciary." 

Widow and single mother Lindiwe Dlamini, 39, had provoked the challenge to the King by not accepting the kidnapping of her 18-year-old daughter, Zena Mahlangu, who was taken away by agents of the King Mswati III on 9 October. Ms Dlamini went to an Mbabane court to demand that King Mswati return Zena to her.

Putting such a case to the courts is unheard of in Swaziland, where the playboy King merely follows tradition when abducting virgins to see whether they please him and eventually may marry them. Mswati has already married nine Swazi girls in this way. Nevertheless, there is no legal basis for these abductions, not even in Swaziland. 

The King's agents however ordered the Chief Justice and two other High Court judges to drop the case brought by Ms Dlamini is seeking the return of her daughter, Miss Mahlangu. Neither the mother nor her legal advisers have been allowed access to Miss Mahlangu. Two lawyers appointed by the court to interview her have been repeatedly blocked by officials of the Royal Palace from having access to her. 

On 1 November the judges were officially informed in writing by the Attorney General that if they continued hearing the case they must "resign immediately" after issuing their judgment. If they failed to do so arrangements would be made for their removal from office. 

This written order came two days after the chiefs of staff of the army, the police and correctional services and the Attorney-General met privately with the three judges to convey a message from the Royal Palace that the judges must stop hearing the case or resign. 

The judges however continued to hear the case as scheduled on 31 October. In open court the Chief Justice stated that they intended to continue presiding over the case despite the threat which had been issued against them on the previous day. He postponed the case until 5 November. 

- This case must be allowed to continue without pressure or interference of any kind from the Executive, Amnesty today demanded. Under international and regional human rights standards the applicant, Ms Lindiwe Dlamini, was "fully entitled to have access to her daughter who has been held effectively incommunicado since she was secretly removed from her mother's custody for the purpose of making her the tenth wife of the King." 

The groups therefore today condemned "this blatant threat against the integrity and independence of the judiciary." Over the last two years government officials had "frequently attempted to reverse or circumvent court rulings. In a number of cases, the police have blatantly flouted the orders of the court without any consequences for them," the group says. 

The surprising law suite from a woman that is expected to be proud to have the opportunity of becoming the King's mother-in-law has also sparked a massive debate in Swaziland. Prince Masitsela fuelled the debate by asking Ms Dlamini as to who she is to challenge the King in an interview with the 'Times of Swaziland' on 21 October. 

- We feel this question was not directed to Lindiwe [Dlamini] alone but to all citizens of this country, nine Swazi rights groups last week answered Prince Masitsela. "We therefore ask ourselves who are we in this country. Can we as individuals claim to be Swazi citizens? Can we claim to have basic Human Rights?" they continued. 

Amnesty in turn answers their question. The Swazi Royal House did not respect the international and regional human rights treaties. "Its continuing interference with the independent operation of the judiciary poses a threat to the human rights of all Swazi citizens," the group says. 

These violations were "a consequence of the long standing pattern of discrimination and subordination of women in Swaziland. The practice of forced marriage and the denial of legal equality to women constitute a form of violence against them. In a country where one-third of the population is HIV positive, sexual violence also constitutes a threat to life," Amnesty concludes. 

Sources: Based on Amensty, press reports and afrol archives

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