22 January 2023 – The World Liberty Congress (WLC) is shocked, outraged, and strongly condemns the killing of human rights lawyer and former political prisoner, Thulani Maseko from the Kingdom of eSwatini (formerly known as Swaziland).
Thulani Maseko was a prominent civil rights lawyer in eSwatini who focussed much of his work on exposing state corruption and fighting cases against King Mswati’s regime. Thulani was one of the 11 individuals that faced terrorism charges for exposing the lack of judiciary independence in Swaziland in 2014, only one of them remains alive and in eSwatini today. Thulani was jailed for 14 months in 2014 for his work. He was also an author of multiple articles and public letters criticizing the lack of judicial independence in Swaziland.
Thulani was murdered yesterday January 21st, shot to the head at his home in Luyengo, hours after King Mswati warned that his mercenaries would deal with those who opposed him. He leaves a wife and two children.
Thulani Maseko’s murder is not an indiscriminate attack. eSwatini has been under an absolute monarchy ruled by King Mswati III since 1986. Mswati’s dictatorship has persecuted critics to the point of banning political parties. Journalists and activists who expose eSwatini’s problems are often subjected to harassment, beatings, arbitrary arrest, and sometimes even torture.
Protests erupted across eSwatini in 2021 as young people took to the streets to demand rights to vote and constitutional reforms. Political parties remain banned in the country of around 1.2 million people, which was formerly known as Swaziland, until 2018. As Africa’s last remaining monarch, King Mswati exerts power over the country’s parliament and other tiers of government. In the last four weeks, four other activists in eSwatini have been murdered under circumstances not investigated by the Mswati regime.
Thulani was a senior member of Lawyers for Human Rights Swaziland and a founding member of the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network. He was also the Chairperson of the Swaziland MultiStakeholder Forum (MSF), a convergence of various stakeholders calling for constitutional reforms in Eswatini. Thulani was also a recipient of the Southern Africa Shield award for his exceptional contribution to “changes in his community by peacefully promoting and protecting human rights” in 2015. He was also a speaker at the 2016 Oslo Freedom Forum, organized by the Human Rights Foundation.
The WLC demands international organizations, especially those of which the eSwatini regime is a member, to immediately open an investigation into Thulani Maseko’s murder. The WLC also calls on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African Union (AU) to be proactive in supporting the population of the country in their calls to transition the country from an absolute monarchy to a democracy.
We express our unwavering support to human rights defenders in eSwatini and the African region.
Signed by the Executive Council Members of the World Liberty Congress:
Masih Alinejad, Iran, for Middle East and North Africa.
Garry Kasparov, Russia, for Eastern Europe.
Nury Turkel, Uyghur Region, for Asia Pacific and South Asia.
Maximilienne Ngo Mbe, Cameroon, for Sub Saharan Africa.
Leopoldo López, Venezuela, for The Americas.
The World Liberty Congress (WLC) is a global organization striving to confront and dismantle autocrats and their international networks by supporting pro-democracy and freedom-fighting leaders on a political, strategic, financial, and legal levels.
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