The Eswatini authorities must ensure the investigation into the unlawful killing of human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko is completely independent, impartial, transparent and effective, Amnesty International said today, one month after he was shot by unknown gunmen.
“A month after Thulani Maseko was gunned down, it remains unclear what steps the Eswatini authorities have taken to facilitate an independent investigation to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of this crime. Amnesty International is calling on the authorities to reveal how they intend to ensure the investigation into Maseko’s death will be thorough, impartial and transparent,” said Vongai Chikwanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.
“It is absolutely crucial that the evidence is not tampered with. As a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Eswatini has the obligation to investigate any unlawful killing. Failing to investigate the unlawful killing of Thulani and bring the perpetrator to justice would be a violation of the country’s obligations under the ICCPR.”
The unlawful killing of human rights defender and lawyer Thulani Maseko on 21 January came amid an escalation in attacks on critics, many of whom had been calling out for political reforms in Eswatini.
Maseko was shot three times through the window of his home by unknown gunmen at close range. A local newspaper reported that two police officers had staked out his house before he was killed. According to reports, those police officers were allegedly the same ones who attended the crime scene after Maseko was shot.
Inter-governmental organizations such as the Southern African Development Community, the Africa Union, and the European Union, as well as the human rights community, including Amnesty International, have called for a full and transparent investigation into Maseko’s killing.
“Every day that passes without commitment and action from the authorities towards an independent and transparent investigation brings further pain for Maseko‘s family. This killing must not be covered up or swept under the carpet. The perpetrators of this brutal crime must be brought to trial,” said Vongai Chikwanda.
“In the meantime, the Eswatini authorities must ensure that people in the country are safe and able to exercise their human rights freely and without any reprisals, including political activists and human rights defenders.”
On 21 January, Maseko was shot by unknown gunmen at his home in Luyengo, Mbabane.
Prior to his death, he chaired the Multi-Stakeholders Forum, a group of political parties and civil society groups calling for democratic reform in the country.
Eswatini’s monarchy is strongly opposed to activism and any kind of political reform. The day before Maseko was killed, King Mswati III reportedly said that those calling for democratic reform in the country would be “dealt with”.