Law clear on officers’ use of force: LCS boss



MASERU – Assistant Commissioner of the Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS), Lipholo Nthako, says the law expressly prohibits junior officers from using force in the presence of their superiors. He was testifying last week before the Commission of Inquiry, which is presently probing the circumstances surrounding the escape of six inmates from the facility on December 21, 2023. He said the law mandates that junior officers can only resort to force in emergency situations if their superiors have not authorised it.

Nthako further noted: “In this situation, if the inmates refused to be searched, the recruits should have reported to their seniors.” He added that he cannot affirm that the recruits assaulted the inmates under the instruction of an instructor. “I believe they acted defiantly and independently, while their seniors stood by idly.” He underscored his observation that in instances where seniors lose focus, some recruits or officers exploit the opportunity to use force against inmates, despite knowing it is against protocol.

“The issue is that if one person assaults an inmate, others might follow suit, feeling compelled to do the same. However, based on my knowledge of the recruits and instructors and their conduct, I would be genuinely surprised to learn that any instructor ordered recruits to assault inmates,” said Nthako.

“Chief Officer Ratšele’s name surfaced repeatedly in the testimonies, but considering his character and professionalism, it is difficult to reconcile these allegations with the person I know,” Nthako added. Reflecting on the training curriculum, Nthako said: “Upon my arrival at the training school, the curriculum and instructors were already set. However, I believe there are crucial elements missing from the curriculum manual.”

He continued: “I advocate for the inclusion of subjects like criminal law, which would equip recruits with knowledge applicable beyond their schooling. “Understanding criminal law would enable them to recognise the elements of assault and other offenses. Additionally, administrative law would familiarise them with procedural matters.”

After their escape from prison on the night of December 21, 2023, all six inmates were subsequently apprehended at various times and locations. One inmate lost his life, while another suffered a leg fracture during the capture process. Additionally, the other inmates who did not escape were subjected to assault by prison officials the following day.

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