The government of Swaziland must fully respect the rights of Chief Justice Ramodibedi, Justices Anandale and Simelane, Registrar Nhlabatsi and Mr. Shongwe, as accused persons.
The Africa Judges and Jurists’ Forum (AJJF) has followed with keen interest and concern the recent events involving the arrest of former Minister of Justice Sibusiso Shongwe, High Court Registrar Fikile Nhlabatsi and Judges Mpendulo Simelane and Jacobus Anandale; and the continued siege at the residence of the Chief Justice, Michael Ramodibedi, laid by the Royal Swaziland Police Service (RSPS) and officials from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) since 17 April, 2015.
While the AJJF recognises that where judicial officers, including the Chief Justice, are suspected to have violated the law they must be held accountable, this process must follow the dictates of due procedure as spelt out in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland as well as the regional and international human rights treaties that Swaziland is party to.
‘The government of Swaziland must fully respect the rights of Chief Justice Ramodibedi, Justices Anandale and Simelane, Registrar Nhlabatsi and Mr. Shongwe, as accused persons. Critically, the accused must enjoy the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair public trial without undue delay, and the right to legal representation, among others,’ said Justice Moses Chinhengo, Chairman of the Africa Judges and Jurists’ Forum.
Commenting on reports that the electricity and water connection to the residence of the Chief Justice were cut off during the week although these were later restored, Justice Chinhengo expressed grave concern at government taking the law into its own hands rather than using legal mechanisms to bring the accused to justice.
As there have been a series of developments in recent years that have undermined the credibility of the courts system in Swaziland, the Africa Judges and Jurists’ Forum urges the government to resolve the current crisis in a manner that enhances rather than diminishes public confidence in the judiciary.
The AJJF is a pan-African Forum for eminent judges and jurists, who are committed to promoting justice and development in Africa by providing legal expertise to governments, intergovernmental organizations, donor agencies, private sector and civil society organizations. The Forum works to enhance the rule of law, good governance and economic growth through standard setting, judicial and legal reform support and rule of law related capacity-development initiatives for the effective realization of the benefits of democratization to African peoples. The AJJF is a registered voluntary entity under South African law; and its membership represents all the legal systems in Africa.
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