Target: Sibusiso Shongwe, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs
Goal: Release two men imprisoned simply for exercising their freedom of expression
Thulani Maseko and Bhekithemba Makhubuhave been imprisoned since March 2014 for their roles in questioning the integrity of Swaziland’s judicial system. The men have been denied access to lawyers and have not been treated in accordance with laws governing arrest and trial in Swaziland. Sign the petition and demand that Thulani Maseko and Bhekithemba Makhubuhave be released immediately, in accordance with international human rights standards.
Bhekithemba Makhubhave, the editor of Swaziland’s monthly news magazine The Nation, recently published two articles, written by human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, that were critical of “judicial independence and integrity in Swaziland,” Amnesty International reports. Both men were arrested and charged with criminal contempt of court, but the warrant used to detain them apparently contained irregularities and “subverted the normal legal process.” The men were also denied access to their lawyers and not allowed to apply for bail.
Both men have had problems in the past due to their outspoken criticism of Swaziland’s judicial system. Makhubhave has previously been accused and convicted of “criminal contempt of court” for publishing articles that called into question “the independence of the country’s judiciary.” He was sentenced to two years in jail unless he paid a fine of roughly $45,000 (US) within three days. While Makhubhave’s lawyers were able to submit an appeal in time, he is still caught up in legal wrangling over the charges. Maseko, on the other hand, was charged with breaking the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act in 2009. He has never been tried for these charges.
Freedom of speech is one of the most basic human rights, and it is certainly not a crime. Sign the petition and demand that justice, not revenge, be pursued in the cases of Thulani Maseko and Bhekithemba Makhubuhave.
I am writing to demand the immediate release of Bhekithemba Makhubhave and Thulani Maseko, who have been imprisoned since March 2014 simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Their imprisonment is a travesty and I urge you to drop all the charges against them and release them immediately.
Makhubhave and Maseko were charged with criminal contempt of court after Makhubhave, editor of The Nation, published two articles written by Maseko. In the articles, Maseko expressed his concerns about the integrity of Swaziland’s judicial system. It appears his criticism was well-founded, as both he and Makhubhave were arrested on the orders of Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi in a series of events that “subverted the normal legal process,” Amnesty International reports. Instead of appearing before a magistrate, the men were summoned directly to the Chief Justice for a summary hearing, at which point they were denied access to their lawyers and the opportunity to apply for bail.
It is quite clear that revenge, not justice, is the goal in the cases of Bhekithemba Makhubhave and Thulani Maseko. I demand that the two men be released immediately, and–in light of their situation–I urge you to further investigate their criticisms of Swaziland’s judicial system.
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Photo credit: CIA World Factbook