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US gov’t expresses concern over Swaziland’s Public Order Bill

The United States has raised eight concerns on Public Order Bill No.8 that Swaziland is trying to pass in order to meet to meet one of the benchmarks for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).The issues are carried in an invitation letter that the Swaziland government wrote to the International Labour Organisation seeking for technical assistance on the formulation of the Bill.

The eight concerns are; notification timeline, size of the group that triggers the notification requirement, compliance certificate requirement, documentation and information requirements, ban on spontaneous assembly, civil liability, guidance for prohibition of an event and narrow the definition of public space.

These are the same concerns that were once raised by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland.

According to the bill, the notification timeline for planned activity by unions to government is seven days and the US argues that it should be 48 hours.

The US wants the Swazi government to unban spontaneous assemblies as allowed by the African Commission and UN Special Rapporteur.

Three years later, Swaziland has met only three of the five benchmarks to retain its AGOA status, which are full passage of amendments to the Industrial Relations Act; full passage of amendments to sections 40 and 97 of the Industrial Relations Act relating to civil and criminal liability to union leaders during protest actions; and establishing a code of good practice for the police during public protests.

The two that are remaining are full passage of amendments to the Suppression of Terrorism Act and full passage of amendments to the Public Order Act.

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