UN alarmed at Eswatini protest violence

Eswatini Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Manqoba Khumalo says calm is slowly returning to the kingdom. About 27 people have died following recent violent pro-democracy protests. This resulted in a harsh crackdown by authorities in the kingdom, as well as a media blackout. Courtesy #DStv403

GENEVA - The UN voiced alarm at the eruption of deadly violence during protests in Eswatini, calling for an independent investigation into all alleged rights abuses, including by law enforcement.

The UN's rights office said there were claims that security forces had engaged in "disproportionate and unnecessary use of force" after being sent to quell protests that escalated last week.

Spokeswoman Liz Throssell told reporters in Geneva there were claims police had used live ammunition, and she also highlighted reports of looting and vandalism by protesters.

READ: eSwatini: Organisation disappointed with SADC's lack of action

"Although the situation is now reported to be calmer, we remain concerned at the potential for further unrest," she said.

The protests first erupted in May following the death of a 25-year-old law student, allegedly at the hands of police. 

But after protesters ramped up their campaign for political reform last week, the government deployed the army to disperse the crowds.

READ: SA urges protection of protesters in troubled Eswatini

Unverified videos have emerged of beatings by security forces. Local civil society and opposition groups have claimed several dozens were killed. 

In New York, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for both sides to address their differences "through inclusive and meaningful dialogue". 

Amnesty International accused the security forces of a "frontal attack on human rights" and alleged at least 20 people had been killed.

READ: Eswatini imposes curfew as military quell pro-democracy riots

The government has so far said it has not received an official report of any deaths.

Throssell urged security forces to minimise any use of force during protests.

"We also call on the government to ensure that there are prompt, transparent, effective, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of human rights violations," she said.


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