The authorities in Lesotho must uphold human rights and the rule of law and end continuing harassment and intimidation of lawyers and human rights defenders, said Amnesty International today, marking Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s first year in office.
In the year since Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s inauguration, we have seen a disturbing pattern of human rights violationsDeprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa
“In the year since Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s inauguration, we have seen a disturbing pattern of human rights violations committed with absolute impunity as illustrated by the repeated flouting of court orders by the Lesotho Defence Force,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.
“Lawyers, civil society leaders and journalists have been intimidated and even threatened with death for simply doing their jobs.”
The organization’s call comes soon after human rights lawyer Khotso Nthontho was arrested and briefly detained in Maseru on 12 February 2016. He is one of five lawyers representing soldiers charged with mutiny.All five lawyers working on the case have received death threats related to their involvement in the case and have reported being followed and monitored by suspected state security agents.
LDF has repeatedly defied court orders to release 23 soldiers on open arrest, a form of military bail. They were detained between May and June 2015 on mutiny charges.
Many of them reported being subjected to torture, and other ill-treatment at the hands of the LDF whilst in detention.
Lawyers, civil society leaders and journalists have been intimidated and even threatened with death for simply doing their jobs.Deprose Muchena
Seven of them have since been released after court battles, but 16 remain detained at the Maseru Maximum Security Prison, despite the Maseru High Court ordering their release on military bail on 5 October 2015.
LDF commander, Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao was killed on 25 June 2015 by four members of the LDF who claimed that he was resisting arrest. However, a Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Commission of Inquiry report into the killing, which was tabled in Parliament on 8 February, found that he had not resisted arrest and his death involved excessive use of force.
“The government must create an environment where all people can freely enjoy their rights without fear of intimidation, harassment, or even death,” said Deprose Muchena.
“Prime Minister Mosisili must steer Lesotho back towards being a human rights-respecting country by ensuring that its international legal obligations are fully respected and adhered to.”
Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili took up office on 17 March 2015 after general elections on 28 February.
The vote did not produce a clear winner, but a coalition government was formed by Mosisili’s Democratic Congress and six other political parties.