Pm needs to bring the army to or­der

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

YET again, a Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) of­fi­cer sus­pected of mutiny is lan­guish­ing in Maseru Max­i­mum Se­cu­rity Prison de­spite a Court of Ap­peal rul­ing order­ing his re­lease.

As re­ported in this edi­tion, Lance-cor­po­ral Toma ne­hemiah Jobo suc­cess­fully ap­pealed against his con­tin­ued in­car­cer­a­tion in the top court, which or­dered that he be placed un­der open ar­rest.

In his rul­ing, Jus­tice Moses Hungwe Chin­hengo took note of the “un­rea­son­able­ness” of keep­ing LanceCor­po­ral Jobo un­der close ar­rest in view of the un­cer­tainty of the date when his trial would com­mence.

The judge also high­lighted the fact that Lance-cor­po­ral Jobo had been jailed for more than 42 days in con­tra­ven­tion of LDF reg­u­la­tions. How­ever, the army of­fi­cer was still in cus­tody at the time of go­ing to press.

De­spite court rul­ings order­ing the re­lease of LanceCor­po­ral Jobo and his 23 de­tained col­leagues, the LDF has con­tin­ued to use tech­ni­cal­i­ties to keep them in­car­cer­ated. In one in­stance, they ar­gued that a High Court rul­ing had been “over­taken by events” be­cause they had al­ready in­sti­tuted their own pro­cesses.

In an­other, they “re­leased” the of­fi­cers on the prison grounds, only to re-ar­rest them shortly af­ter on fresh charges.

Dr Mo­sisili needs to call the army to or­der in their de­fi­ance of law­ful court rul­ings. The premier can ill af­ford to suc­cumb to political ex­pe­di­ency and act out­side the Con­sti­tu­tion in cases in­volv­ing se­cu­rity mat­ters be­cause it will set a bad prece­dent. The state’s obli­ga­tion to pro­tect lib­er­ties should be sacro­sanct.

If any­body has com­mit­ted an of­fence, the law is very clear on their rights, and the Con­sti­tu­tion must not be sus­pended be­cause there are state se­cu­rity is­sues. The con­don­ing of such army ex­cesses is only serv­ing to en­trench the de­vel­op­ing cul­ture of im­punity.

The ab­sence of real political will to im­ple­ment this very ba­sic tenet of the law “the as­sump­tion of in­no­cence” has brought us to this sad state of affairs where sus­pects dis­ap­pear for weeks only to be brought to court bear­ing marks of abuse at the hands of the army.

It places Le­sotho in a club of rogue states which rou­tinely re­sort to tor­ture and other acts of bru­tal­ity as mea­sures of co­er­cive con­trol. The govern­ment has an obli­ga­tion to con­tinue to act within the con­fines of the law not­with­stand­ing the grav­ity of the case it is pros­e­cut­ing.

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