Following reprisal measures taken against Swazi prisoner of conscience and trade unionist Thulani Maseko, Labour MEPs have urged the EU to act against intolerable human rights abuses in Swaziland.
Mr Maseko, a lawyer working for the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland, was arrested and jailed a year ago after writing an article criticising the lack of independence of the judicial system in Swaziland, and was subsequently sentenced to two years in prison. On 19 March 2015, following the publication of a prison letter denouncing his detention conditions, he was moved to solitary confinement.
The situation of Swazi trade unionists and human rights activists has been deteriorating in recent years and was further worsened by the decision of the government to ban all workers' and employers' federations in October 2014.
Richard Howitt MEP, Labour's European spokesperson on human rights, said:
"The deeply worrying and deplorable human rights abuses in Swaziland documented by the Robert F Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights should be a wake up call to the EU. Countries in receipt of EU trade preferences, such as Swaziland, must understand the sacredness of human rights and free speech.
"As such, the EU must act as the confident and reforming voice that it is and not turn a blind eye on trade to those who turn a blind eye on human rights.”
David Martin MEP, Socialists and Democrats Group spokesperson on international trade, said:
"Human rights and labour rights should be at the heart of EU external policy including trade. We have often heard from the Commission and External Action Service it is the "silver thread" running through EU foreign policy.
"If they are genuine about this then I look forward to hearing how the EU will seriously and quickly address with Swaziland this abuse of human rights."
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP, member of the European Parliament international trade committee, said:
"The EU grants trade preferences to countries like Swaziland in order to incentivise governments to deliver human and labour rights.
"What this latest abuse in Swaziland shows is that this policy of incentives has failed. If the EU want to be serious about human rights, it's high time we get serious about our criteria for granting trade preferences."