Denmark has raised the questions of political freedom, human rights, and the trial of political activists Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini with Swaziland’s government and absolute monarch King Mswati III, Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Martin Lidegaard told the Danish Foreign Affairs Committee last Wednesday.
“Denmark has continuously raised the question of political freedom with Swaziland, most recently on the 5th of June 2014, when the Danish ambassador held political talks in the capital Mbabane with, amongst others, king Mswati III and [then] Minister of Foreign Affairs Mgwagwa Gamedze”, said Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Martin Lidegaard.
During the meeting with the king, the Danish ambassador urged Swaziland to comply with the demands of the ongoing AGOA-negotiations, which should include the adaption of laws such as Swaziland’s Suppression of Terrorism Act, a bill that Amnesty International has called “inherently repressive”.
Mario and Maxwell
“Such adaptions would particularly benefit the media, human rights defenders, and the political opposition in Swaziland, including Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini”, Martin Lidegaard said. “The trial of Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini was also brought up during the recently held political consultations between the EU and Swaziland on the 2nd and 3rd of October regarding the Cotonou Agreement, at the request of the Danish Ambassador”.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs was replying to questions posed by Danish MP for the Red-Green Alliance, Christian Juhl regarding human rights violations in Swaziland, specifically in reference to the trial of Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini.
Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini face terrorism charges under Swaziland’s Suppression of Terrorism Act and could serve 15 years in prison for criticizing Swaziland’s absolute monarchy and expressing support for pro-democracy party the People’s United Democratic Front (PUDEMO) on Mayday.
Masuku is the PUDEMO President and Dlamini the Secretary General of PUDEMO’s youth league, SWAYOCO. They have been remanded in prison since their arrest on Mayday, having had several applications for bail turned down. Masuku has contracted pneumonia in prison which has been exacerbated by his diabetic condition and led to drastic weight loss and poor eye sight.
Stronger pressure on Swaziland
The imprisonment and trial of Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini has been heavily criticised, both in Denmark, where solidarity organization Africa Contact and the Red-Green Alliance have campaigned for their release, and abroad.
Danish Chairman of the Parliament and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mogens Lykketoft, who met with Mario Masuku in his office in the Danish Parliament last year, has supported the calls for their release and called for “stronger pressure” on Swaziland “regarding freedom of speech and organization”.
And in a letter to king Mswati, an array of other individuals and organisations such as Desmond Tutu, Freedom House, Freedom of Expression Institute in South Africa, Front Line Defenders, and Southern Africa Litigation Centre called for the release of political prisoners in Swaziland, including Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini.
“We call upon you to order the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience and political prisoners detained in Swaziland,” the letter stated, urging Swaziland’s government to “begin meaningful discussions with the growing number of citizens and independent organizations that are demanding their basic freedoms and calling for democratic reform in Swaziland.”