Maseru filthy cells exposed
- Prisons cesspools of human waste
- Kamoli spared crammed cells
MASERU – Murder accused former military personnel are crammed in filthy cells at Maseru Central Prison which they have described as unhygienic cesspools reeking of human waste and a seedbed for communicable diseases, Public Eye can report.
The conditions in the old section of the prison are so wretched and not “conducive for human life” as over 20 inmates are packed liked sardines in single cells and have to watch while cellmates relieve themselves in a corner toilet at night.
At least three inmates share a single mattress with only wafer-thin blankets to protect them from the bitter winter cold, heightening the risk of infectious diseases spreading, Lance Corporal Motsieloa Leutsoa, one of the so-called high-profile prisoners, said in his damning testimony before the Constitutional Court this week.
The deplorable conditions are in breach of United Nations basic principles for the treatment of prisoners which enjoin state parties to ensure that: “All prisoners shall be treated with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings.”
Retired army commander, Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli, the poster boy of this group, is however ensconced in the new section of the prison which comes complete with showers.
“Tuberculosis and abscess deceases are rampant in the prison; one does not get medical assistance constantly as appointments are made first and sometimes one waits for a week to see a doctor.
“Medication is very limited at LCS health clinic. I must state that my request to visit a doctor was declined after I complained that I have run out of prescribed medication.”
On top of that, Leutsoa said the toilets do not have running water and inmates are forced to collect water for use overnight although this is never enough to sustain them until the morning.
“We aver that the conditions we live in are psychologically shuttering, we are in poor or worse state of physical and mental health which are contrary to our freedom from inhuman treatment as assured by section 8 (1) of the Constitution.”
Leutsoa invited the Court to visit their cells to better understand their situation.
“It is worthy of mention that Madam Acting Chief Justice Maseforo Mahase, Registar Ponts’o Phafoli and Chief Magistrate Nthunya visited Lesotho Correctional Service and they stated that the conditions we live in are not conductive for human life.
“The undertaking was made by the Acting Chief Justice that inmates who were denied bail should renew their bail applications soonest so as to reduce overcrowding,” he said.
As a result, Leutsoa is now gravely ill and needs approximately M400 000 for a life-saving operation in Bloemfontein.
Leutsoa told the ConCourt on Monday that his condition was so serious that it needs to be treated at a hospital in Bloemfontein after local doctors advised him to seek “special attention”.
He said living conditions in the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) prison cells where he is currently detained are u fit for human habitation and have contributed significantly to his poor medical situation.
“Beginning of the year 2019, I started to experience back pains and routinely sought medical assistance and would be given painkillers. At the beginning of the month of June, 2019, my back pain worsened and was referred to Queen II Government Hospital.
“After checkups, I was referred to Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital (Tsepong) for further treatment,” Leutsoa said.
“On a date which has escaped my mind and I could not refresh my memory as my medical booklet is in the custody of LCS where I do not have access to it, I was told that my condition is so serious that it needs to be treated at Bloemfontein in South Africa.
“I did request the doctor to write that observation in my my booklet and he declined saying the ministry of health has since told Tsepong Hospital to cease making referrals to South Africa as there is no money.”
Leutsoa is one of several ex-soldiers accused with Kamoli for the alleged murder of former army boss, Maaparankoe Mahao and Police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko.
Leutsoa and Lance corporal Ts’itso Ramoholi petitioned the ConCourt on Monday to be freed on bail and asked the court to declare that the conditions they are currently subjected to in the male prison amounts to exceptional circumstances for the purpose of their bail application.
The duo is also seeking a declaratory order that their rights in terms of Section 8 (1) read with section 27 (1) of the constitution have been infringed by the LCS and the Ministry of Justice through the deplorable conditions prevalent in prison.
The duo asked the court to declare section 109A of Criminal Procedure and Evidence (Amendment) Act 10 of 2002 violates section 4 (1) (b), 6 (5) of the constitution and thereby find it irrational and arbitrary therefore unconstitutional.
According to Section 109A, the court shall order that the accused be detained in custody until he or she is dealt with according to the law for killing a law enforcement officer performing his functions.
“The Court shall order that the accused be detained in custody until he or she is dealt with in accordance with the law, unless the accused, having been given a reasonable opportunity to do so, adduces evidence which satisfies the court that exceptional circumstances exist which in the interest of justice permit his or her release.”
Section 4 (1) (b) of the constitution emphasises the right to personal liberty while section 6 (5) states: “If any person arrested or detained upon suspicion of having committed, or being about to commit, a criminal offence is not tried within a reasonable time, then, without prejudice to any further proceedings that may be brought against him, he shall be released either unconditionally or upon reasonable conditions, including in particular such conditions as are reasonably necessary to ensure that he appears at a later date for trial or for proceedings preliminary to trial.”
Their case is that the CP&EA, by introducing exceptional circumstances, has ensured that inmates are subjected to inhuman treatment.
“We aver that the advent of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Act of 2002 by introducing exceptional circumstances has ensured that we are subjected to the above prevailing circumstances which in our considered view amounts to exceptional circumstances for purpose of bail application but the courts have failed to give judicial consideration for the same hence our application.”
According to Leutsoa and Ramoholi, they are only required to prove on a balance of probabilities that their release from jail will not prejudice the interests of justice and thereby argue that no other meaning can be attached to section 109A of CP&EA other than ordinary common bail requirements.
“We aver that any interpretation accorded to the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Act 10 of 2002, section 109a thereof, that we have to prove something out of the ordinary as a pre-condition for our release is unconstitutional to the extent that it negates our right to presumption of innocence and right to personal liberty as fully accorded by the constitution of Lesotho.
“I aver further that Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Act 10 of 2002, section 109A thereof, is contrary to section 6 (5) of the Constitution of Lesotho in that it inroads on separation of powers principle, in that the courts should discharge their constitutional mandate guided by evidence and facts and no other consideration which serves no legitimate government purpose,” Leutsoa said in the affidavit.
The complainants said case law is not clear on exceptional circumstances and thereby invited the court to affirm that exceptional circumstances be interpreted in line with guidelines issued by the Appeal Court in a 1997 judgement.
In Bolofo & others v DPP, Justice Steyn P outlined three areas the court has to take into consideration when deciding on bail: Is it more likely that the accused will stand his trial or is it more likely that he will abscond and forfeit his bail?
Whether there is reasonable likelihood that if the accused is released on bail he will temper with witnesses or interfere with the relevant evidence or cause such evidence to be suppressed on distorted.
Another consideration is to establish how prejudicial it might be for the accused in all circumstances to be kept in custody by being denied bail.
Therefore, they asked the court to declare section 109 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence (Amendment) Act 10 of 2002 irrational and unconstitutional for being inconsistent with the Constitution of Lesotho.
They also want the ConCourt to consider and affirm that exceptional circumstances should be interpreted in line with guidelines outlined in the Appeal Court judgment.
Further, the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners stress: “Where sleeping accommodation is in individual cells or rooms, each prisoner shall occupy by night a cell or room by himself. If for special reasons, such as temporary overcrowding, it becomes necessary for the central prison administration to make an exception to this rule, it is not desirable to have two prisoners in a cell or room.
“Where dormitories are used, they shall be occupied by prisoners carefully selected as being suitable to associate with one another in those conditions. There shall be regular supervision by night, in keeping with the nature of the institution.”