Wonder Mkhonza, National Organising Secretary of the banned Swazi political party the People's United Democratic Movement and Secretary General of the Swaziland Processing Allied Workers Union, was detained on Friday April 12, allegedly for being in possession of 5000 PUDEMO pamphlets.

He has since been released on bail due to international pressure from this campaign and others, but strict bail conditions and a court case that is likely to be ongoing for years on end mean that he is in effect still a prisoner.

The democratic movement in Swaziland was marking the 40th anniversary of the state of emergency and banning of all political parties in 1973 by King Sobhuza II in 1973 when Mkhonza was detained by police at Lavumisa, a small town near the South African border.

There is reasonable suspicion that Mkhonza might have bene tortured whilst detained. Swaziland ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture in 2004. Nevertheless, there have been many reports of torture and beatings by Swazi police, security forces and prison officers, including the torture of student leader Maxwell Dlamini and the death of PUDEMO member Sipho Jele, who was detained for having worn a PUDEMO t-shirt and died in prison under mysterious circumstances.

Amnesty International reported in their 2011 Universal Periodic Review hearing on Swaziland, that “severe beatings and suffocation torture” were “persistent forms of ill-treatment” in police custody. And Swaziland’s Prime Minister, Barnabas Dlamini, has warned that sipakatane - a form of torture where people’s feet are repeatedly beaten with spikes – could be used against protesters.

Read more: at http://www.afrika.dk/

Letter to
Swaziland Minister of Foreign Affairs Mtiti Fakudze
Dear Swaziland Minister of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation, Mtiti Fakudze

I am writing to you concerning Wonder Mkhonza, National Organising Secretary of the People's United Democratic Movement, Secretary General of the Swaziland Processing Allied Workers Union and National General Council member of Swaziland's Trade Union Congress, TUCOSWA.

Wonder Mkhonza was detained in Lavumisa on Friday April 12 2013, allegedly for being in possession of 5000 PUDEMO pamphlets during the 40th anniversary of the state of emergency and banning of all political parties in 1973.

He has since been released on bail due to international pressure from this campaign and others, but strict bail conditions and a court case that is likely to be ongoing for years on end mean that he is in effect still a prisoner.

I believe that Wonder Mkhonza is a political prisoner and is thus unlikely to be given a fair trial, not least because of the very broad and vague anti-terrorism laws in Swaziland, and that there is reasonable suspicion that Mkhonza might be tortured whilst he is detained.

Swaziland ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture in 2004. Nevertheless, there have been many reports of torture and beatings by Swazi police, security forces and prison officers.

Amnesty International reported in their 2011 Universal Periodic Review hearing on Swaziland, that “severe beatings and suffocation torture” were “persistent forms of ill-treatment” in police custody.

I therefore call on you to:
- unconditionally drop the charges against Wonder Mkhonza and all other political prisoners in Swaziland
- open a prompt, impartial and comprehensive investigation into allegations that political prisoners such as Wonder Mkhonza are tortured and ill-treated in custody. While this investigation is ongoing, the officers accused of torture should be suspended from duty.
- ensure that anyone found to have tortured and/or ill-treated Wonder Mkhonza and other prisoners are brought to justice in a fair trial and, if they are found guilty, that the sentences imposed are commensurate with the gravity of the crime.

I furthermore demand that the use of torture is condemned at the highest levels of government and call on you to ensure that safeguards are put in place to prevent torture and ill-treatment in the future. These safeguards should include ending the practice of de facto unacknowledged detention, banning the admissibility of torture confessions in court proceedings, giving access to independent public monitors to all detention facilities, and creating a truly independent complaints mechanism, so that the torturers can be charged and brought to justice.

I thank you for your consideration in this important matter.