WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) introduced a resolution yesterday that condemns the human rights record of the government of Eswatini and the killing of Eswatini human rights activist Thulani Maseko in January. The resolution urges Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen to consider targeted sanctions against any individuals or entities committing gross human rights violations in Eswatini. Additionally, it calls on the government of Eswatini to conduct a transparent and thorough investigation into the assassination of Thulani Maseko.
“The introduction of this bipartisan resolution is an important signal from Congress that we have not forgotten the assassination of Thulani Maseko and are aware of the dire human rights situation in Eswatini under King Mswati III,” said Risch. “The United States must continue to call for an independent and credible investigation into Maseko’s murder and accountability for those responsible.”
“Thulani Maseko was a champion of social justice and human rights in Eswatini, one of the world’s last absolute monarchies. I strongly condemn Thulani’s brutal killing and the Eswatini government’s failure to undertake a full, transparent, and impartial criminal investigation into his assassination,” said Coons. “I join my colleagues in introducing a bipartisan resolution condemning the human rights record of the government of the Kingdom of Eswatini and the murder of Maseko on January 21.”
"Human rights defenders in Eswatini and countries around the world have faced repression and persecution for many years, and we must speak out when those human rights defenders are under threat," said Booker. “In addition to bringing attention to the unresolved death of Eswatini human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, this resolution underscores the deterioration of human rights in one of the world’s last absolute monarchies.”
“‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves’ is a constant reminder in Scripture for the role of any public servant,” said Scott. “That is why I join my colleagues in expressing deep concern over the worsening cycle of political violence and suppression of free speech in Eswatini. Transparency and accountability must be restored with respect to public officials complicit in extrajudicial killings, torture, and other egregious human rights violations.”
Eswatini is one of the world’s last absolute monarchies and is currently ruled by King Mswati III. Eswatini’s government remains repressive, and human rights defenders in Eswatini still face repression and persecution today. On January 21, 2023, Thulani Maseko, a prominent human rights lawyer in Eswatini, was shot and killed by an unknown gunman. Eswatini authorities have failed to announce progress on an independent investigation to identify those responsible for this crime and bring them to justice. Advocates believe Maseko was killed by pro-government forces because of his agitation for human rights.
Text of the resolution can be found here.