UN rights chief condemns killing of activist in Eswatini

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa — United Nations humans rights chief Volker Türk on Monday condemned the “brutal killing” of a leading pro-democracy activist in the southern African nation of Eswatini, which is one of the world’s few remaining absolute monarchies.

Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko was shot in his home on Saturday, Türk said in a statement.

He called on Eswatini authorities to ensure there was an independent and effective investigation into the killing.

Maseko was a leading figure in the push for Eswatini to transition into a multi-party democracy. He was imprisoned in 2014 for allegedly criticizing the judicial system’s lack of independence, the U.N. said. He was acquitted on appeal and released a year later.

Eswatini was formerly known as Swaziland and is a country of just over 1 million that borders South Africa and Mozambique. It is Africa’s last remaining absolute monarchy and has been ruled by King Mswati III since 1986.

The country was engulfed in pro-democracy protests two years ago, when there were reports of state violence against demonstrators and King Mswati III was accused of repressing any opposition.

Amnesty International said it believed Maseko was killed because of his work as a human rights lawyer and also called for a proper investigation. Maseko was reportedly shot twice through the window of his home, Amnesty said.

At the time of his death, Maseko was working as a lawyer for two people facing trial for offenses allegedly committed during the unrest in 2021, the U.N. said.

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