Danes voice concerns over Swaziland human rights issues

Political opposition leaders facing 15 years in prison

The foreign minister, Martin Lidegaard, has revealed he is concerned about political freedom and human rights issues in Swaziland as the controversial trial of two political activists, Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini, continues in the southern African nation.

The Danish ambassador to Swaziland, René Dinesen, met with Swaziland’s government and absolute monarch, King Mswati III, in the nation’s capital Mbabane, as well as a political opposition leader, Jan Sithole.

“During meetings with Mswati, Dinesen urged Swaziland to adhere to specific demands regarding the ongoing negotiation with the US regarding the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA),” Lidegaard said in a statement to the Danish Foreign Affairs Committee.

”These demands include adjusting certain laws such as terrorism legislation and laws regarding unions and human rights. Such adjustments would benefit media, human rights advocates and the political opposition, including Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini.”

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Critical of monarchy
Masuku, the president of the People’s United Democratic Movement political party, and Dlamini, the secretary general of the Swaziland Youth Congress, have been imprisoned since being arrested on 1 May 2014 and charged with terrorism and sedition for criticising Swaziland’s absolute monarchy.

Masuku and Dlamini face terrorism charges and up to 15 years in prison under Swaziland’s Suppression of Terrorism Act, which has been described as being “inherently repressive” by human rights organisation Amnesty International.