ESWATINI: Liswati lawyer Maxwell Nkambule was the victim of an assassination attempt because of his defense of pro-democracy activists.
8 march 2023
On 7 December 2022, the day after his clients were due to appear in court on charges of terrorism and murder of police officers, lawyer Maxwell Nkambule was followed by a car similar to those used by state security forces before one of the passengers shot him at point blank range. He was chased on the public highway, but managed to escape.
Since then, Maxwell Nkambule has reported various acts of intimidation against him by police and other government supporters, including patrols by unknown cars outside his home and an attempted burglary of his office, which the police have not investigated.
In addition to these personal threats, which the Observatory condemns, concern for the life of lawyer Nkambule is heightened by the fact that oppression of human rights defenders and any opponent of the regime is commonplace in the kingdom of Estawini (formerly Swaziland). In an address in January 2023, King Mswati ostensibly threatened all those calling for democratic reform, saying that his mercenaries would deal with them. This was the case of lawyer and prominent member of the Lawyers for Human Rights Swaziland, Thulani Maseko, who was murdered on the 21st of January, as well as lawyer Sicelo Mngomezulu, who was banned from entering Swaziland for defending imprisoned pro-democracy parliamentarians.
The Observatory condemns in the strongest terms these pressures and attempts on the life of lawyer Maxwell Nkambule because of his work.
The Observatory calls on the Eswatini’s authorities to immediately cease all measures of intimidation and attacks on the physical integrity of Maxwell Nkambule as well as any lawyer because of his profession and to open an independent, impartial and transparent investigation into the attempted assassination of Maxwell Nkambule.
The Observatory salutes the struggle of lawyer Maxwell Nkambule for the defense of human rights, democracy, the right to defense and the rule of law.
The Observatory recalls that the independence of lawyers is one of the main indicators of democratic health and the consolidation of the rule of law. This is in line with the provisions of the United Nations Principles on the Role of Lawyers:
Principle 16: “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all their professional functions without hindrance, intimidation, harassment or undue interference; (b) are able to travel and consult with their clients freely, both within and outside the country; and (c) are not subject to, or threatened with, prosecution or economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with their recognized professional obligations and standards and their professional ethics.”
Principle 17: “Where the safety of lawyers is threatened in the exercise of their functions, they shall be adequately protected by the authorities.”