state of civil and political rights: Not free
constitution: signed by the King in July 2005 went into effect on 8 February 2006
legal system: based on South African Roman-Dutch law in statutory courts and Swazi traditional law and custom in traditional courts
legislative system: bicameral Parliament (Libandla) consists of the Senate and the House of Assembly
judicial system: High Court, Supreme Court, judges for both are appointed by the monarch
religion: Zionist 40%, Roman Catholic 20%, Muslim 10%, other 30%
death row: 8
year of last executions: 0-0-1982
death sentences: 0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights
The Criminal Law and Procedure Act No.67 of 1938, as amended in 1975, provides for a mandatory capital sentence for murder without extenuating circumstances. Treason carries a discretionary death sentence.
All death sentences are automatically referred to the Court of Appeal. If the sentence is confirmed on appeal, the convicted person has the right to appeal to the King for mercy.
The King is advised by the Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy (Justice Minister plus two other ministers and the Attorney General). If the King confirms the death sentence he is required to sign a warrant before execution is carried out.
Swaziland has executed 34 convicted murderers since independence from Britain in 1968. The last person was executed in 1982: a mother and prominent businesswoman, Phillipa Mdluli, was hanged for the ritual murder of her domestic worker's daughter, whose body had been mutilated in the mystic belief that certain human flesh carries magical powers.
Until now, King Mswati III has developed a reputation for leniency, using official holidays and royal celebrations to commute death sentences to life terms and life terms to 15 or 20 years.
In March 2003, the Times of Swaziland reported that senators were debating in Parliament a motion asking the Minister to raise the issue of the death penalty and execution of sentence for death-row prisoners. Some felt there was a need to clarify whether the law existed or had been scrapped. The acting Minister of Justice confirmed that the death penalty still stood, but said executions had been frozen because the Court of Appeal was dormant, and due process could not be followed.
In August 2005, King Mswati III signed a long-awaited new constitution, which however maintains a ban on political parties. The king has come under heavy criticism for his lavish spending in a country with a 70% poverty rate and where HIV/Aids affects nearly 40% of the population.
On December 18, 2008 Swaziland voted against the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly.