27 June 2003

The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Dato Param Cumaraswamy, expressed today his grave concerns over recent developments in Swaziland where a number of lawyers have been charged with contempt of court and at least two lawyers have been convicted for the same offence for refusing to appear before two recently appointed judges. He had also learnt that the entire executive body of the Law Society has been served with some “papers” to appear in court to answer charges of inciting lawyers not to appear before these judges.

The Special Rapporteur earlier learnt that the Law Society adopted a resolution calling upon its lawyers not to appear before these judges because their appointments were constitutionally flawed.

“If indeed the appointments of these judges are constitutionally flawed then the Law Society is quite right in taking the position that it took”, the Special Rapporteur said. “Flawed judicial appointments would certainly not give legal legitimacy to the courts in which the judges sit. Such courts would certainly undermine the rule of law”.

“Judges should be mindful of the legal legitimacy of the courts in which they sit and see to it that their appointments meet all the constitutional requirements instead of ordering lawyers to appear before their unconstitutional courts to answer charges of contempt of court etc. for failing to appear before them”, Dato Param Cumaraswamy added. “How can there be contempt of court when that court is not constitutional and no legal legitimacy?”

The Special Rapporteur called upon the Government and its competent agencies to stop these threats and harassments to the Law Society and its lawyers but instead take measures to review the appointments of the judges concerned. The charges against these lawyers and the executive body of the Law Society should be withdrawn. Further, the convictions against the lawyers who failed to appear before these courts should be set aside.

The Special Rapporteur in an earlier press statement on 15 April 2003 expressed his grave concerns over the protest resignation of the Chief Justice of the High Court and possible deportation of two senior members of the Law Society. “All these developments continue to place the rule of law in Swaziland in jeopardy”, he noted.

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