The Assassination of Thulani Rudolf Maseko

The safety of Southern African Human Rights Defenders is under threat!

Statement on the Assassination of Thulani Rudolf Maseko

ZimRights learnt with shock and sadness of the assassination of Eswatini Human Rights Defender Thulani Rudolf Maseko. He was gunned down at close range in the presence of his family at his home on the 21st of January 2023.

ZimRights conveys its deepest condolences to the Maseko family and the entire Eswatini human rights community. Maseko had been involved in human rights work since around the year 1998 and was a decorated human rights lawyer who unequivocally fought for the advancement of human rights in Eswatini and the Southern African Region. He chaired the Multi-Stakeholder Forum, a coalition of civil society organisations and political parties working on amplifying demands for democratic reforms in Eswatini. He was also a founding member of the Southern Africa Defenders Human Rights Network (Southern Defenders) which ZimRights is a member of.

Maseko was arrested on several occasions by the Eswatini government including in 2014 for raising concerns about judicial independence and integrity. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience. His stance towards promoting human rights and democracy was unwavering.

Sadly, the writing has been on the wall for human rights defenders as the Eswatini authorities openly threatened them for their work. In 2021, the King of Eswatini unleashed the armed forces who killed dozens of civilians for protesting a decree which banned citizens from petitioning parliament and demanding democratic reforms. More recently, the king threatened human rights defenders with violence.

It is against this background that ZimRights is concerned with the deteriorating situation regarding the safety of human rights defender in in Eswatini and Southern Africa in general and would like to remind the Eswatini government and the entire SADC community that they are bound by the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted through Resolution A/RES/53/144 of 1998. Article 1 of the HRDs Declaration provides that: “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.” This declaration gives legitimacy and recognition to the work of human rights defenders.

It is this legitimacy and recognition that has come under attack as shown with the killing Thulani Maseko, and saddening to note that Human Rights Defenders are under from those who are supposed to guarantee a safe environment for them.

In this regard, ZimRights makes the following call;

  • That the Government of Eswatini allows for an international tribunal to investigate the murder of Thulani Maseko
  • That the entire AU and SADC community resolve the deteriorating human rights situation in Eswatini .

Issued by the ZimRights information Department