The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) dropped murder charges against the former prime minister and first lady. Protests were prohibited with authorities denying permits for assembly under Covid-19 regulations until August. Police brutality, including allegations of torture and other ill-treatment and an unlawful killing, remained a serious concern. Gender-based violence continued to rise while women were marginalized in the economic and political spheres. Access to healthcare was limited, particularly for women and girls in rural areas.
Parliament was dissolved in July in preparation for the general elections in October. It was recalled on 24 August, under the state of emergency, and finally passed long-standing constitutional reforms on 31 August. Following this, the High Court ruled that the state of emergency was unconstitutional and that therefore parliament had no constitutional authority to pass the bills amending the constitution.
On 26 July, the DPP dropped the charges against former prime minister Thomas Thabane and his wife Maesaiah Thabane over the 2017 murder of his former wife, Lipolelo Thabane, and the attempted murder of her acquaintance, Thato Sebolla, citing lack of witnesses. Some witnesses to the murder died under mysterious circumstances while others left the country in fear for their lives between 2017 and 2020.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Police brutality remained a serious concern with some members of the security forces implicated in the killing of a protester and the torture and other ill-treatment of others. Police authorities faced several legal claims for damages amounting to millions of US dollars, including for allegedly torturing lawyer Napo Mafaesa in detention in Ha Mabote Police Station in January and a Ha Pita woman named Mateboho Matekane at Lithoteng Police Station in the capital, Maseru, in November 2021.
On 19 May, 35 people, including 16 women, were tortured by police officers and members of the Lesotho Defence Forces after they protested, including by barricading roads, against electricity cuts in Liseleng village in Thaba-Tseka district. They were beaten and made to roll over several metres of muddy track leading to the nearby Matsoku River and back again. The protesters were arrested and charged with disturbing the peace. They were later released on bail and appeared in Thaba-Tseka Magistrates Court in May and June. The case was pending at the end of the year.
The National Police Commissioner told Amnesty International that seven Lesotho Mounted Police Service officers were suspended after shooting at protesting students at the National University of Lesotho on 16 June, killing Kopano Francis Mokutoane and injuring several others, and were under investigation.
Freedom of assembly and association
Restrictions on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, implemented in 2020 under the guise of containing Covid-19, were lifted in August, allowing for political gatherings to take place and nightclubs to reopen.
Gender-based violence continued to rise, especially domestic violence, mainly affecting women and children. Access to justice for women, particularly those living in rural communities, was limited partly owing to inadequate transport and poverty which prevented them from reaching police stations and courts in towns.
Women continued to be excluded from participation in the economy and politics, and suffered the triple burden of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Economic, social and cultural rights
Poverty and inequality remained widespread, exacerbated by the adverse effects of Covid-19 on the economy. Economic performance remained slow, exacerbated by the pandemic, affecting industries such as manufacturing, particularly textiles, mining, construction and services. This impacted the incomes of most households. The World Bank said that poverty reduction would only slowly improve as food and energy prices increased and the fragile economic environment limited the budgets and livelihoods of poorer households. Poverty rates were projected to improve slightly, by dropping to 35.2% in 2022 compared with 36% in 2021.
Right to health
In 2022, about 300,000 people of a population of 2.3 million were living with HIV/AIDS; the majority were women and adolescent girls who were also more likely to face social stigma. People, especially women needing maternal and other crucial health services, were prevented, partly by poor rural road networks, from accessing healthcare facilities. In addition, inadequate transport continued to force women to give birth at home rather than in health centres.