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Government urged to protect judges

By Nat Molomo

MASERU — The Law Society of Lesotho has urged the government to put in place appropriate measures to ensure the safety and security of judges and other judiciary officers.

The call comes in the wake of last Saturday’s incident in which a gunman attacked High Court judge Justice Nthomeng Majara and her sister.

The police said the 32-year-old man was an ex-boyfriend to Justice Majara’s sister.

Justice Majara and her sister were about to driver into her home in Maseru West when the man attacked them.

Her sister was shot in the attack. Justice Majara was not injured.

Although the judge was not the target the Law Society says the incident shows that the security of judicial officers is inadequate.

The society called on the government to protect judges and other judiciary officers.

In a letter to Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili dated May 20, 2011, the Law Society said the government should investigate any security breaches or lapses surrounding the incident.

The letter, signed by the Society’s secretary-general, Ts’eliso Mokoko, said the violent circumstances surrounding the incident was a reminder of the failure by state security agencies to protect officials who uphold the rule of law in the country.

“Indeed the incident is a clear indicator that violence perpetrated in our society even goes to the extent of compromising the sacrosanct duties of judicial officers,” Mokoko said.

He added: “Efforts must be made and resources expended to cultivate an environment where members of the judiciary carry out their onerous tasks of upholding the rule of law without fearing any repercussions which are likely to follow.

“That is why we enjoin the government of Lesotho to put in place appropriate measures for assuring safety and security of judges, both at the court rooms and their residences as it has endeavoured to do with respect to the Honourable Chief Justice.”

Currently it is only the chief justice who is being provided with 24-hour protection both at work and at his official residence.

Law Society president Zwelakhe Mda told the Sunday Express yesterday that the lack of security at the official residences of judges endangers their lives given the nature of their work.

“A person who has been aggrieved by the courts’ decision can easily walk into the judicial officer’s home and pose danger to them.

“Hence it is important that they (officers) are provided with security and sentry, as is the case with the Chief Justice,” Mda said.

He said it was strange that judges were offered police protection while at the High Court but not at their homes.

“There is no danger at the workplace, the danger is at home where anybody can just walk in and out.”

Mda cited the case of the police officers who in 2007 went to Justice ’Maseforo Mahase’s home to search for illegal arms.

“Because of lack of security, it could have been easy for someone to go in and plant dangerous items in her home and claim that they belonged to her,” Mda said.

He also cited an incident in 2006 where the president of Ketane Local Court in Mohale’s Hoek was attacked and killed at his official residence.

In yet another incident some years ago a night watchman was killed at Setleketseng local court in Maseru district.

The man who attacked Justice Majara and her sister later committed suicide on the same day.

The police said he had been angered by the judge’s sister’s decision to end their love affair.

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