25. November 2008

ILO demands protection of trade union leader

The members of the Governing Body of the International Labour Organization have expressed concern over the situation relating to freedom of association in Swaziland, and in particular over the security of Jan Sithole, Secretary General of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions. Mr Sithole has been attending the ILO GB as a substitute worker member.
The Governing Body took note of the situation today and pledged their support for Mr. Sithole.

Sir Roy Trotman, Chairperson of the Workers' group of the Governing Body of the ILO, alerted ILO Director-General Juan Somavia to the situation in a letter dated 20 November, and expressed deep concerns over “violations of freedom of association and trade union rights” in Swaziland, and in particular Mr. Sithole who he wrote was “under threat of being arrested upon his return on Saturday, November 22.”

In a letter to the King of Swaziland, His Majesty King Mswati III, Mr. Somavia appealed to the monarch to “guarantee the physical integrity and protection of Mr. Sithole and to ensure that the recent Suppression of Terrorism Act is not used to infringe upon the principles of freedom of association, basic civil liberties and trade union rights."

In a separate letter, Mr. Somavia also asked the UN Resident Coordinator in Swaziland to follow up on the allegations and keep him informed of developments.

Mr. Somavia called upon government delegates to use their influence to ensure the protection of trade union leaders in general and, in this particular case, Governing Body members who return to their countries.

The Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) has written to the Austrian Ministry of European and International Affairs calling for sending off a note verbale to the Swazi government to support the ILO’s request. (ILO)

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