Pm needs to bring the army to order
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.