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Eswatini: Experts condemn killing of human rights defender Thulani Maseko, demand accountability

26 January 2023

GENEVA (26 January 2023) – UN and African Union experts* today condemned the killing of human rights defender and lawyer Thulani Maseko in Eswatini as “abhorrent” and demanded an impartial investigation into his death.

“This is a tragedy. Thulani was an advocate for justice and human rights. His killing is a great loss and a massive blow to the human rights movement in Eswatini and beyond,” the experts said, echoing a statement condemning his killing by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk.

Maseko was a member of Lawyers for Human Rights Swaziland and Chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum, a coalition calling for constitutional reform in Eswatini. He was shot dead at his home by unknown assailants on the night of 21 January 2023. His assassination occurred on the same day the King of Eswatini made a veiled threat against members of the country's pro-democracy movement.

“Thulani’s tireless efforts for the protection of human rights, democracy and justice have left an indelible mark on the pro-democracy movement in Eswatini,” the experts said, “The tragic killing of such a prominent human rights defender and lawyer is an abhorrent act, which must be immediately and impartially investigated.”

“Defending human rights is not a crime. Under no circumstances should activists or human rights defenders, working for a better, just world, be subject to intimidations, threats, violence, reprisals or killings”, the experts said.

The experts expressed extreme concern that Thulani may have been directly targeted in retaliation for his work as a human rights lawyer and advocate for democracy. They urged the State to guarantee an effective, impartial and independent investigation into the killing and reiterated the High Commissioner's call for authorities to ensure the safety of all human rights defenders, civil society actors and lawyers in Eswatini.

“We express our most sincere condolences and solidarity with Thulani's family, friends and colleagues and underline our determination to follow-up on the case to ensure justice and accountability,” the experts said.


*The experts: Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Morris Tidball-BinzSpecial Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Ms. Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyersand  Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and Hon. Rémy Ngoy LumbuSpecial Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals.

The UN Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

The Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Retaliation joins the statement. The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights aims to promote human and peoples' rights; ensure the protection of human and peoples' rights; interpret any provision of the African Charter; and perform such other tasks as may be entrusted to it by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Union.

UN Human Rights, Country Page - Eswatini

For further information and media requests, please contact:

Sophie Helle (+41 22 917 56 69 or
[email protected].)

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact

Maya Derouaz
([email protected]) or

Dharisha Indraguptha
([email protected]).

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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