TRC calls for end to police excesses

. . . as suspects dies in Thetsane police custody

RELEBOHILE TSOAMOTSE

MASERU – There is need to overhaul all police malpractices and establish mechanisms to eliminate police brutality and impunity. Human rights body, the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) has made the call following the death of one Tšeliso Sekonyela in police custody at the Thetsane Police Post. Police detained Sekonyela, who worked for BB Alert as a security guard at a Ha Thetsane liquor store, after alcohol went missing at his work place and he subsequently died in their custody.

Sekonyela is latest victim of police excesses and joins the long list of suspects who die in police custody. Despite the large numbers and its advocacy, the TRC says there has not been any prosecutions to terminate the culture of impunity, to promote the culture of respect for human rights and constitutionalism in the country by the security institutions. Police still use force on suspects which “ends with suspects/ individuals presumed to be innocent until proven guilty being deprived of their right to life.”

This is despite strict national and international laws and standards governing how and when police can use force – particularly lethal force. According to TRC, state authorities, including police, must always remember their obligation to respect and protect the right to life. In a statement, the rights body said among numerous cases of brutality ever reported, there has not been any prosecution and called on institutions entrusted with the job to ensure justice is served.

The human rights body states that prosecutions will go a long way in terminating the culture of impunity as well as promoting a culture of respect for human rights and constitutionalism in the country by the security institutions. “TRC regrets that despite numerous calls, there has not been any prosecutions to terminate the culture of impunity to promote the culture of respect for human rights and constitutionalism in the country by the security institutions,” further reads the statement.

Sekonyala’s killing comes at a time when the killing of police officers is also reaching an alarming rate and TRC says it is not an isolated case but part of an endemic brutality by the security establishments. “These security establishments whose mandate is to maintain peace, law and order have ostensibly been transformed into public enemies who enjoy qualified immunity and impunity for dehumanising acts, as well as killings.” Their officer’s killings, TRC believes, may be a combination of factors including inadequate laws and entrenched impunity.

While all stakeholders seek to work on the overhaul of all police practices, the organisation says responsible institutions should investigate and prosecute all deaths in the hands of police, prosecute all acts of torture and ill-treatment, capacitate the police service to ensure efficient policing and law enforcement in line with human rights standards as well as improve the efficiency of the judiciary in an effort to improve the performance of the criminal justice system.

TRC is also calling on compensation for the victims, survivors, families and, importantly, the establishment of an autonomous, independent, effective and efficient security institutions complaints mechanism under the constitution.

 

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