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-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Ms. Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; and Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and Hon. Rémy Ngoy Lumbu, Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals.