Re­ports of army tor­ture un­nerv­ing

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

WHILE we are averse to com­ment­ing on mat­ters that are sub ju­dice, the con­tin­u­ing al­le­ga­tions of tor­ture lev­elled against the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) can­not go un­men­tioned.

In this edi­tion, we report that Colonel Posa Alphoncy Stem­mere, who was ar­rested by the army on Tues­day last week, bled through the nose in the High Court as he nar­rated his or­deal at the hands of his LDF cap­tors.

Colonel Stem­mere told High Court judge, Jus­tice Te­boho Moiloa, this week that he had been tor­tured by his cap­tors since his ar­rest and was in pain as a re­sult.

Another soldier, Cor­po­ral Khosi Leuta also told the High Court he was feel­ing “un­bear­able pain” in his gen­i­tals af­ter be­ing tor­tured dur­ing his de­ten­tion by his col­leagues.

Top of­fi­cer, Bri­gadier Thoso Mareka, who is also in cus­tody, al­leged he was suf­fo­cated by a tube dur­ing his in­car­cer­a­tion. Lance Cor­po­ral Mo­taung Lipholo and Pri­vate Molefi Kapoko also said they felt pain in their hands, feet and chest os­ten­si­bly as a re­sult of tor­ture by their col­leagues dur­ing their de­ten­tion.

As if that was not enough, in another re­cent story, LDF Di­rec­tor of Le­gal Ser­vices Colonel Naha Kolisang pleaded with the Court to or­der his army ab­duc­tors to stop as­sault­ing him.

While it may very well be true that the sol­diers are fab­ri­cat­ing these sto­ries to elicit sym­pa­thy, their chill­ing ac­counts send a shiver down one’s spine. The con­tin­u­ing re­ports do not leave Le­sotho’s rep­u­ta­tion still in good stead in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as ev­i­denced by the con­cerns raised by the United States and Euro­pean Union.

This is not to be­lit­tle the sol­diers’ al­leged of­fence. They are ac­cused of plot­ting to over­throw the army com­mand as stated by De­fence and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Tšeliso Mokhosi.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Mokhosi, when such a plot is un­cov­ered, mil­i­tary laws the world over dic­tate that sol­diers im­pli­cated are court-mar­tialled.

How­ever, the way they have gone about it has left a lot to be de­sired. The army has been or­ches­trat­ing what amounts to ab­duc­tion of the sus­pects un­der a veil of se­crecy.

More of­ten than not, the LDF has been com­pelled to re­veal the where­abouts of their cap­tives when af­ter a loved one has filed an ur­gent ap­pli­ca­tion in the High Court seek­ing an or­der to make him avail­able in court.

The army has also been ac­cused of deny­ing the prison­ers their med­i­ca­tion de­spite the fact that some of them are on anti-retro­vi­ral treat­ment which needs to be taken on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

While the army has its own laws which must be re­spected, there are in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tions which ap­ply across the board. Ar­ti­cle 11 of the Univer­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights states: “Ev­ery­one charged with a pe­nal of­fence has the right to be pre­sumed in­no­cent un­til proved guilty ac­cord­ing to law in a pub­lic trial at which he has had all the guar­an­tees nec­es­sary for his de­fence.”

If the army has a wa­ter­tight case against the ac­cused, as we have been led to be­lieve, there surely is no need to sub­ject them to any form of tor­ture. The le­gal process must take its course and if found guilty by a com­pe­tent court, the sus­pects must face jus­tice.

How­ever, if the al­le­ga­tions of tor­ture are true, the LDF would have con­tra­vened the Con­ven­tion against Tor­ture and Other Cruel, In­hu­man or De­grad­ing Treat­ment or Pun­ish­ment (com­monly known as the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion against Tor­ture).

Ar­ti­cle II of the con­ven­tion is un­equiv­o­cal about the use of tor­ture. It states that: “No ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances what­so­ever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, in­ter­nal po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity or any other pub­lic emer­gency, may be in­voked as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of tor­ture.”

The LDF in par­tic­u­lar, and Le­sotho in gen­eral, can il­laf­ford be­ing tagged as pari­ahs in the com­mu­nity of na­tions. With this neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity, the LDF un­wit­tingly gives am­mu­ni­tion to its crit­ics who ac­cuse the agency of sub­vert­ing tenets of the law.

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