Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

Swaziland is an absolute monarchy, and King Mswati III has ultimate authority over the cabinet, legislature, and judiciary. There is a prime minister and a partially elected parliament, but political power remains largely with the king and his traditional advisors, the most influential of whom remains the queen mother. International observers concluded that parliamentary elections held in September 2008 did not meet international standards. A bombing on election night at a bridge close to the king's palace resulted in rapid implementation of a June 2008 law to silence dissent and ban certain political organizations. Government agents have continued to commit or condone serious abuses. Human rights abuses included the inability of citizens to change their government; extrajudicial killing; police use of torture, beatings, and excessive force on detainees; police immunity; arbitrary arrests and lengthy pretrial detention; restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and movement; prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; discrimination and abuse of women and children; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against mixed race and white citizens; and restrictions on worker rights.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The U.S. strategy for advancing democracy in the country is three fold: strengthen key government institutions to create and uphold democratic values; strengthen and support civil society, media, and other institutions that hold the government accountable; and assist in developing a platform for civil society and the government to negotiate political space. To achieve these goals, the United States continues to encourage the government to implement concrete measures of democratic progress, such as the full legalization of political parties, consistent enforcement of the constitution, and other reforms that foster a more responsive, inclusive, and democratic government. Anticorruption efforts, legal reform including in relation to freedom of information, and increased promotion and protection of human rights are also strategically important for the country to make the transition to democracy.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The United States uses a variety of means, including support for public dialogue and civil society and government capacity building, to promote political reform. For example, the U.S. Government utilized public diplomacy events to bring together local NGOs, labor union leaders, and political activists for dialogue. U.S. funding also supported a local NGO to host a conference on political alternatives and helped civil society develop a strategic action plan. The United States hosted multiple conferences and panel discussions on the U.S. presidential election and the peaceful transition of power. In support of good governance, the United States hosted an American expert on democracy and anticorruption measures for a week-long speaking tour to address a wide range of civic stakeholders. The tour was widely covered by the media. A U.S. program trained election observers to monitor the 2008 parliamentary election. The United States also sponsored a three-day workshop for new parliamentarians that developed practical skills in the areas of constituency outreach, public relations and media, and negotiation, as well as an action plan for each participant regarding their role as an elected representative. The U.S. continues to sponsor emerging civil society and political leaders and members of the security forces to attend trainings that promote human rights, democracy, separation of powers, and the contributions of civil society.

During diplomatic and programmatic outreach activities, U.S. officials regularly advocate for measures to combat corruption and increase transparency. The United States continues to encourage respect for freedom of information. During one U.S. program, an American expert on freedom of information conducted a week-long speaking tour to address media practitioners and government officials. A related meeting brought stakeholders together to discuss lessons learned from an unsuccessful attempt to pass a freedom of information law and how the effort might be resurrected.

In support of the rights of children, the United States provides school fees for orphaned and vulnerable children and for children at risk for exploitative labor, as well as life skills training for at-risk youth. The United States continued supporting equal rights for persons with disabilities by funding the drafting of a disability policy. The U.S. Government funds a program promoting rights provided for under the constitution and the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, as well as a workplace-based HIV/AIDS education and antidiscrimination program.

[This is a mobile copy of Swaziland]