Swazi youth congress demands release of political prisoners

Bheki Dlamini

Bheki Dlamini

The Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) is to launch a campaign for the unconditional release of its President, Bheki Dlamini and other political prisoners on February 16. Bheki Dlamini is charged under the Swaziland Terrorism Act with planting petrol bombs in police officers and MP’s houses, a charge that he, SWAYOCO and the democratic movement in Swaziland deny. He has been in jail since June 2010.

“We remain convinced that these comrades are innocent, if anything they are guilty of demanding sustainable jobs for the youth, education for all and the unbanning of political parties. Their resistance and refusal to betray the people in the face of continued harassment, intimidation, isolation and incarceration makes us to fight with more vigor and renewed energy for their release,” SWAYOCO said in a National Excecutive meeting statement released Wednesday.

As has been the claim of many other political prisoners in Swaziland, Bheki Dlamini says that he was tortured by the police in order to make him confess. “For over an hour, or even more, I would be suffocated by use of a rubber tube, plastic bag and surgical gloves. One officer carried a jar full of water that he spilt onto my face each time the suffocating tools were momentarily moved. I was suffocated to the extent that I soiled myself and I was in no position to deny anything I was told to admit,” Bheki Dlamini told the Times of Swaziland in 2010.

Swaziland ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture in 2004. Nevertheless, there have been many subsequent reports of torture and mistreatment by Swaziland’s police. Amnesty International reported in 2011, that “severe beatings and suffocation torture” were “persistent forms of ill-treatment” in police custody in Swaziland.

Amnesty also specifically mentioned Bheki Dlamini’s torture by the police in its 2011 annual report. “The court was informed during the hearing that they [Bheki Dlamini and his co-accused  Zonke Dlamini] had been subjected to suffocation torture and other ill-treatment in police custody following their arrests.”

 

By Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact

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