Swaziland's Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Swaziland) welcomes the release of editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko.
The two were acquitted by the Supreme Court of Swaziland yesterday, 30 June 2015, after serving a year in jail in an unprecedented case which has seen the tiny kingdom drawing attention from several regional and international players.
Lovely day as editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko are re-united with their famillies. pic.twitter.com/pPZbthGdV6— #FreeMarioMasuku (@PUDEMO) June 30, 2015
The charges emanated from articles that were published by a local publication, The Nation magazine, which criticised the manner in which the recently fired Chief Justice of Swaziland, Michael Ramodibedi, dealt with a case involving a civil servant.
The two were arrested in March 2014 and were denied bail following several attempts by their attorneys to fight for their release in court.
This case has exposed the rot within the Swazi justice system and has resulted in the arrest of two judges and a minister.
MISA-Swaziland believes the judgment is a positive step towards the restoration of the rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution for country.
“The courts have vindicated the citizens of Swaziland,” said MISA's advocacy officer Phakama Shili.
“The ruling will set a good foundation for reforms in the manner in which freedom of expression is perceived in Swaziland.
“This is victory for all of us here in Swaziland and I hope international players will come in and assist the country in this new era on the restoration of the rule of law.”
Shili urges organizations like the International Commission of Jurists to help in strengthening the capacity of the recently appointed judges by providing training and resources.
He also applauded the government of Swaziland for the appointment of local judges in keeping with the country's counstitution.
This is a good start, the burden is now upon all of us to support the judges and safeguard their independence, said Shili.
MISA-Swaziland thanks all local, regional and international players who have supported advocacy efforts on the case.