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LCN speaks on police brutality claims

by Sunday Express
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Mohalenyane Phakela

THE Lesotho Council of NGOs (LCN) Democracy and Human Rights Commission have urged the police to decisively address allegations of torture and brutality of suspects in custody.

The civil society organisations have also called for an end to the recurring fleeing to exile of opposition leaders once a new government is installed, calling for national dialogue to ensure peace and stability in the country.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the organisations note that the government’s drive to “promote rule of law” had resulted in the arrests of many high profile officials.

“However, the otherwise legal and applauded process has been blurred with reports of torture and dehumanising treatment of suspects by the police,” reads part of the statement.

LCN member organisations, Development for Peace Education and Transformation Resource Centre, have since engaged Acting Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli and Police Minister ‘Mampho Mokhele according to the statement.

The civil society groups engaged them on the alleged assault of former police deputy spokesperson, Senior Inspector Lerato Motseki, by her colleagues in July this year and allegations of police brutality in Koro-Koro.

“Though some Basotho use reports of torture to define the nature of the government of the day, the sector believes that police brutality should be perceived as an evil practise that has prevailed across regimes and must be dealt with decisively.”

The civil society organisations also cite allegations of police torture by Lesotho Congress for Democracy deputy leader Tšeliso Mokhosi when he was in custody last month, saying they were yet to meet Acting Commissioner Molibeli on the matter.

Mr Mokhosi was arrested on 28 August this year and eventually charged with the murder of Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng. The former Defence minister has accused the police of torture and forcing him to lie before the Magistrates’ Court about his involvement in the death of PC Khetheng.

“While the organisations are yet to meet the commissioner of police on this matter, it is the duty of the democracy and human rights commission to condemn torture and or inhumane treatment in its forms and manifestations.

“The commission notes that the Constitution of Lesotho prohibits torture and inhuman treatment, therefore every institution including police must abide by this constitutional requirement.”

They further advise the government to follow up the investigation of Mr Mokhosi with clear and timely legal proceedings “lest some Basotho perceive it as political ploy aimed at suppressing dissent”.

They also call for an end to the recurring fleeing to exile of opposition leaders. Earlier this month, Mr Mokhosi joined LCD leader Mothetjoa Metsing and Democratic Congress deputy leader Mathibeli Mokhothu in exile.

Mr Metsing fled the country last month citing a tip-off from a “trusted source” about a plot to assassinate him. Mr Mokhothu skipped the country a week later citing “suspicious vehicles” at his home and alleging persecution by the government of opposition leaders.

Communications Minister Joang Molapo has since rubbished Mr Mokhothu’s claims, saying the government would not achieve anything in persecuting the opposition.

“The civil society sector has also learned that other leaders of opposition have fled the country. The country must be spared from a recurring practice that when one regime assumes power it follows that leaders of opposition must flee the country,” reads the statement.

“The government and opposition should genuinely engage each other to pave way for peace and stability in the country.”

Commenting on the statement, Acting Commissioner Molibeli told the Sunday Express the law enforcement agency’s doors were always open to listen to concerns about human rights abuses.

“If cases of torture or abuse are brought before our attention, we always take corrective measures,” he said.

“LCN can testify that we always do everything in our power to protect both people’s rights and our image as well. We worked together on the case of Mme Motseki, although I cannot go into detail about it.

Acting Commissioner Molibeli  added: “We were supposed to meet regarding the Ntate Mokhosi matter, but then the commander of the army (Lt-Gen Khoantle Motšomotšo) was shot on the same day. Therefore, we had to reschedule. But my door is always open to any concerns regarding the police.”

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