Lesotho: Army chief cannot continue to disobey a court’s order

Lesotho’s Defence Force (LDF) chief should not be allowed to continue to disobey a court order, Amnesty International said today ahead of his court appearance for failure to comply with a High Court order to release 18 soldiers from military detention.

Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli has been charged with contempt of court after failing to honour a court order requiring the release of soldiers on “open arrest”, a form of military bail. The soldiers were detained between May and June 2015 for their alleged participation in a mutiny. He is due to appear at the Maseru High Court tomorrow.

The continued detention of the 18 soldiers despite the court ruling ordering their release shows a blatant disregard for the rule of law
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa

“The continued detention of the 18 soldiers despite the court ruling ordering their release shows a blatant disregard for the rule of law,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

“By ignoring a judicial ruling the army is behaving as if it is accountable only to itself.”

The soldiers are also facing a court martial on mutiny charges due to resume on 1 February. All were put in solitary confinement during their detention. Amnesty International is calling for their release on military bail, as per the court’s ruling.

The organisation is also calling for a full and impartial investigation into the allegations of torture against some of the 18 soldiers and five others who were released earlier.

By ignoring a judicial ruling the army is behaving as if it is accountable only to itself
Deprose Muchena

“This is an important moment for Lesotho’s justice system to demonstrate that no one is beyond the law and hold Lieutenant-General Kamoli to account for his inaction,” said Deprose Muchena.

“When the country’s most senior military commander ignores a court order, it sets a dangerous precedent which cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.”

Background

A total of 23 members of the LDF were arrested between May and June 2015 for suspected mutiny and detained at Maseru Maximum Security Prison.

They were arrested for their perceived support for slain LDF commander, Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao, who was killed by four members of the LDF on 25 June 2015. They appeared before the court martial on 1 December 2015 on mutiny charges. The court martial was postponed until 1 February 2016.

Five of them were released during early December 2015 on open arrest.

The High Court declared their continued detention unlawful and ordered their release on “open arrest” on 5 October 2015.