Lockdown: 15 cases of armed forces excesses noted

RELEBOHILE TSOAMOTSE

MASERU – More than fifteen incidents of human rights violations have been reported to the Lesotho Lawyers for Human Rights (LLHR) since the start of the national lockdown. The rights body had to approach the High Court (sitting as the Constitutional Court) to intervene after the Law Society of Lesotho failed to act. Last month LLHR wrote to the Law Society requesting it to petition the court over gross rights violations.

LLHR said police and soldiers involved in human rights violations should be investigated and suspended from the service. They argued their actions constitute a criminal offence and that officers involved should be made to account. They said the Law Society, as a watchdog for the rule of law, is bound to intervene and protect citizens but had not acted by last Wednesday prompting LLHR to approach the court. LLHR asked the court to ensure police officers and soldiers should be interdicted and restrained from torturing members of the public.

They have also asked the court to order the Commissioner of Police and the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander to take legal action against officers involved in the acts to ensure that the officers be criminally charged. In the certificate of urgency accompanying their court application, Advocate Bolelang Mokoatle says citizens’ fundamental human rights have been violated by members of law enforcement agencies and continue to be violated with impunity. She said the physical harm towards citizens is unlawful.

“According to the Penal Code, threat of death and or physical harm, either directly and indirectly is unlawful. Furthermore, according to the same code and international Human Rights Law, torture is a crime against humanity,” Mokoatle said. In the latest incident, a Thaba Tseka man was on April 21 arrested and detained by the Thaba Tseka police without a charge. Khabang Lesuhlo had just returned from the police station to visit a family member who was arrested when police came looking for him; they tortured and assaulted him before taking him to the police station.

Signs of torture were visible and a magistrate noticed it when an attempt was made to detain him further. The magistrate declined and ordered his release. Also one Fusi Nomo is reported to have died in the hands of Morija police on April 25. According to LLHR, Nomo and other suspects were tortured by police and he died as a result. Police reported about Fusi’s death to his wife only saying he fell sick during interrogation. While police claimed Nomo got sick and they took him to Morija Scott Hospital, his wife says officials at Scott said they knew nothing about Fusi when she inquired.

LLHR president, Advocate Zwelakhe Mda said the manner in which police are handling Fusi Nomo’s demise is an indication of how a number of suspects died in the hands of police. “Police reported to the widow and one Phatelang Nkopane that the deceased fell sick while being interrogated,” Advocate Mda said in his affidavit. Justices: Thamsanqa Nomncongo, Molefi Makara and Lisebo Chaka Makhooane will hear the case tomorrow.

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