Amnesty International on Tuesday called on the eSwatini government to release political activists arrested during pro-democracy protests over the past few months and to cease the use of excessive force to crack down on peaceful protestors.In a petition, the rights group demanded “an end to the crackdown on the right to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.”
“All peaceful protestors arrested by the eSwatini Royal Police on trumped-up charges, particularly the Suppression of Terrorism Act and Public Order Act, are released and all charges against them dropped,” the petition said.
Over 1,000 protesters have reportedly been arbitrarily arrested and detained. Some of them were subsequently released but many are still held on allegations of contravening the Suppression of Terrorism Act and Public Order Act.
At least 80 people have been killed while over 200 people have been hospitalized since pro-democracy activists took to the streets in June to demand political reforms.
“Prime Minister Cleopas Dlamini must immediately instruct the eSwatini Royal Police and army to cease the use of live ammunition and tear gas, and all other forms of excessive force to crack down on peaceful protestors.”
The protests were triggered by the mysterious death of 25-year-old law student, Thabani Nkomonye in May, allegedly at the hands of the police.
Protesters, led by young activists, are demanding reform in a country where political activism has been suppressed for years.