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Minister admits to police torture

…says police torture suspects to extract confessions

Mohalenyane Phakela

A CABINET minister has for the first time admitted that the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) uses illegal methods including torture to extract confessions from suspects.

The Minister of Police, retired Senior Superintendent ‘Mampho Mokhele, made the revelation during a Friday ceremony where the LMPS was presented with forensic equipment which was donated by the Algerian government.

The equipment, which consists of five forensic kits for DNA testing and fingerprints as well as 10 computers, printers and scanners, will be used to assist police investigations into serious crimes.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Paseka Molise, said the DNA kit will be used to sample DNA evidence and the fingerprint kit will be used to take pictures at the crime scenes with all the information being forwarded to the LMPS forensic laboratory in order to help determine the culprits.

He said the equipment would go a long way in assisting the police who were previously hindered in effectively investigating cases by the lack of forensic equipment.

Speaking at the same occasion, Ms Mokhele who served as a police officer for 37 years, admitted that the police sometimes resorted to torture in order to extract information from suspects.

She however, said she hoped the donation would go a long way in removing the need for torture as the police could now use it to determine whether or not a suspect had been involved in the commission of a crime.

“We as the police are often forced to use violence to get information out of people because at times we would be sure that the suspect committed the crime but due to lack of tangible evidence we have to use force,” Ms Mokhele said.

From left, Principal Secretary of Ministry of Police Khothatso Tsooana, Minsiter Mampho Mokhele and ComPol Holomo Molibeli being shown the new equipment

“But with this equipment police officers will be able to obtain proof without using violence and present scientific evidence to the courts of law when prosecuting suspects.

“I served as a police officer for 37 years and retired in the rank of Senior Superintendent so when I was called upon to assume the post of minister but I was so disappointed and touched by the fact that the police still had the same needs as those from the time I left the civil service. Like a mother whose children have nothing to eat, I then went to knock on my neighbours’ doors to seek assistance.”

She said she her first stop was India where she secured an agreement for the training of LMPS officers in the use of scientific equipment. She said LMPS officers had started going for training in batches.

“After that I went to Algeria where the crime rate is one of the lowest in the world and I was presented with this expensive and important equipment,” Ms Mokhele added.

Ms Mokhele’s admission comes against the background of complaints by prominent individuals and ordinary members of the public that police use torture to force suspects to confess to crime.

Last September, the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) deputy leader, Tšeliso Mokhosi, accused the police of torturing and forcing him to lie about the killing of Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng during his interrogation.

In a detailed statement soon after his release on bail from custody, Mr Mokhosi narrated how LMPS members allegedly tortured and forced him to lie before the Magistrates’ Court about the death of PC Khetheng.

“Following my arrest and detention, I was placed in a dark and stinging cell at police headquarters, on that date (28 August) and starting from 18:00 hours or thereabout I was subjected to the most inhumane, barbaric, savage, traumatising, cruel and heartless treatment by police officers,” Mr Mokhosi alleged.

He subsequently fled the country, claiming his life was in danger.

In December 2017, the family of senior High Court judge, Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase, revealed that they had filed a civil lawsuit against the police for the torture their 22-year old son, Teboho, allegedly suffered while in custody that same month.

Teboho and his father had been arrested and detained at the Mafeteng Police Station in connection with the theft of M3 million worth of pensioners’ allowances at a pay-point in Mafeteng early last year.

For his part, police commissioner, Holomo Molibeli, welcomed the donation, saying it would assist the police to achieve greater efficiency in their work.

ComPol Molibeli also urged the minster to source more equipment to further improve police operations.

“The fact is that our mother (Ms Mokhele) is a police officer who does not ask us what we need but she simply acts in our best interests as she already knows what will make us more competent.

“AS LMPS we vow to properly maintain this machinery and use it wisely to serve and protect Basotho. We will ensure that there is peace and this equipment will help put those who disturb the peace in jail. It would be good if our mother could also get us an Automated Fingerprints Integrated System which will make it quicker to issue people with police clearances.

“The training in India will also come in handy in equipping the police with scientific skills. We have also started benefitting from the presence of the SADC mission in Lesotho and very soon we will soon have a workshop where they will capacitate us with riot control and VIP protection skills,” ComPol Molibeli said.

Last Monday, the LMPS began a month-long forensic training course at the Police Training Centre in Maseru under the supervision of the Southern Africa Development Community Prevention Mission in Lesotho (SAPMIL).

The opening ceremony on Monday was attended by the Deputy Commissioner of SAPMIL Police Component, Joseph Shikongo, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Keketso Monaheng and other high ranking LMPS officers.

DCP Monaheng said the Forensic Training Course was in line with the regional bloc’s quest to reform the LMPS and help Lesotho to achieve lasting peace and stability.

The SAPMIL also known as the SADC Standby Force was deployed to Lesotho on 2 December 2017. The standby force is made of 217 soldiers, 15 intelligence personnel, 24 police officers and 13 civilian experts.

A confidential SADC report that was prepared ahead of the deployment of the SADC force and seen by this publication, stated that the latter had a mandate of “creating a sufficiently secure, stable and peaceful environment conducive for the rule of law necessary for the implementation of the security sector reforms and the recommendations of the SADC”.

The report also stressed the need for the LMPS to be re-trained in some areas to ensure that it becomes a more efficient and professional force.

Speaking on Monday, DCP Monaheng, said the SADC-organised course came at the right time when the country was faced with challenges of investigating several murder cases that have attracted local and international attention.

Some of the murders that were perpetrated by soldiers in recent years include the 2014 killing of Police Sub Inspector, Mokheseng Ramahloko and the 2015 and 2017 assassinations of army commanders, Lieutenant Generals Maaparankoe Mahao and Khoantle Motšomotšo respectively.

“The course will enable the participants to accurately determine the facts of a particular case and present as much evidence as possible to the courts of law,” DCP Monaheng said.

 

 

 

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