Civil societysoc to sue govtgov over torture
. . . case to challenge ‘torture’ of detained soldiers
CIVIL society organisations have vowed to mount a Constitutional Court challenge against the government and the Lesotho Defence Force over allegations of torturing detained soldiers.
In a damning statement issued in Maseru yesterday, the Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace (CCJP), Lesotho Law Society (LLS) and Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) also called for a comprehensive commission of inquiry into the “current crisis within the armed forces”.
According to TRC Director Tšoeu Petlane, who was flanked by CCJP Director Boi Mohapi, CCJP’S ‘Mamotsiba Makara and TRC’S Mabusetsa Lenka Thamae, the joint press statement was a follow-up to a series of interventions, investigations and statements made in condemnation of the “unexplained” disappearances of LDF personnel and their alleged torture.
He said the organisations had since called on the government to order an immediate end to the disappearances and to order the army to stop torturing detained soldiers. They had also called for the government to institute an inquiry that would establish the facts and seek long-term solutions to the “apparent divisions” within the army.
Mr Petlane said the organisations had also collected and documented the stories of families who reported the detention of their husbands, sons or siblings and the “inhumane treatment” they are enduring. “This triangle partnership has further noted the failure of military authorities to give satisfactorily answers to families’ inquiries with regard to torture observed and witnessed,” he said.
“There is trauma suffered by children, parents and other relatives particularly caused by what they had seen as fathers or sons were arrested.”
According to medical information, Mr Petlane noted, some of the injuries inflicted on the detainees may result in permanent physi- cal, mental and emotional disability.
“There is no law in Lesotho and across the globe that condones torture and extra judicial punishment of suspects of any nature,” he said.
Mr Petlane said civil society organisations had also received reports that some of the lawyers of victims and spouses received threats from LDF members.
“These included reports of threats against families to stop them attending counselling sessions facilitated by these particular organisations,” he said.
“Unlike the members of the security forces who constitutionally have been denied all rights except Section 5, 8 and 9 of the constitution, the spouses have fundamental rights granted by the same supreme law. “Thus, any intimidation that contravenes any civilian’s right of association and movement is unconstitutional or rather criminal.”
Mr Petlane said while government had insisted that the detention of army officers was legal and part of investigations into a mutiny plot, and that Lesotho continued to enjoy social and political-security stability, the organisations begged to differ.
“The courts of law have clearly received information and recorded that detained soldiers have been tortured severely,” he said.
“They have further established that the detention of these men has been effected outside even the narrow dictates of military law.”
As a result, the organisations had resolved to support the families of detained soldiers with emotional and psychological counselling as well as “mobilising towards a Constitutional Court challenge against the government and LDF for torture”.
“It has already been reported widely that the detained soldiers have been tortured, from the time of their detention/ arrest, and some have told in public of the specific acts of torture they suffered,” noted Mr Petlane.
He said they would need financial, professional (services of constitutional experts and lawyers) and moral support to file a case that demands the liq- uidation of the proposed court martial.
“This is based on, among others, the argument initially used by the army itself to justify their refusal to hand over LDF members to the police for investigation in 2014 (that police — especially Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana –– could not be both complainant and investigator),” the statement read.
The organisations also called for a commission of inquiry comprising “internal and external actors” to embark on a fact finding exercise to determine the causes of the current crisis within the armed forces.
“It should further investigate the core causes of this instability, and look into the security-politics nexus that has perennially troubled Lesotho’s governance,” said Mr Petlane.
In addition, he said, to making recommendations including institutional, legal and constitutional reforms to be undertaken to ensure stability, the commission should have powers to bring the perpetrators before the courts of law for justice or make recommendations regarding compensation and redress.
“The findings and rulings of the commission should have the force of law to ensure effective implementation and follow-up,” Mr Petlane said.
He added that the call was premised on government’s coalition agreement which includes reform, restoration of national peace, deepening democracy and respect for human rights, good governance and accountability as key objectives; and a commitment to working with civil society constructively to take the country forward.
“We continue to believe these are ideals we shares with the government; and therefore remain available to support efforts towards their attainment, while also remaining vigilant against non-compliance with them,” said Mr Petlane.
He said the statement was also copied to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, International Criminal Court, Southern African Litigation Centre, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch International among other organisations.
trau“There is ma suffered by children, parents and other relatives particularly caused by what they had seen as fathers or sons were arrested. There is no law in Lesotho and across the globe that condones torture and extra judicial punishment of suspects of any nature
From left: TRC’S Mabusetsa Lenka Thamae, CCJP Director Boi Mohapi, TRC Director Tšoeu Petlane and 'Mamotsiba Makara from the CCJP.