Civil so­ci­etysoc to sue govt­gov over tor­ture

. . . case to chal­lenge ‘tor­ture’ of de­tained sol­diers

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Billy Ntaote

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.

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