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Police conduct under scrutiny

Caswell Tlali

MASERU — A continental policy and research organisation is in Lesotho to investigate the local’s police adherence to professional conduct and their appreciation of basic human rights.

The African Public Policy and Research Institute (APPRI) started the investigation last week.

It is working with the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC).

APPRI is a South Africa-based research institute covering the whole of Africa.

So far the researchers have interviewed police officers, journalists and human rights experts. 

APPRI director of conflict resolution, HIV and Aids and uniformed forces, Themba Masuku, said the research was meant to give a clear picture of the status of professionalism in the police force.

“We will also try to find out how criminal suspects held in police cells are treated and whether the police attach importance to human rights,” Masuku said.

He however said it was still early to form an opinion based on the information they had gathered so far.

TRC director Lira Theko said the investigation was not a witch-hunt but an effort meant to improve the operation of the force and enhance the police’s appreciation of human rights.

“This research is supposed to take two weeks and thereafter we present our findings to the police so that they can see where to close gaps if any,” Theko said.

“If it is found that members of the public have complaints against the police, the report will show that and help the police to improve.”

Police spokesperson Masupha Masupha however said he was unaware that there was some research going on.

“We, as the police, have not been made aware of the research,” Masupha said.

Lesotho’s police are notorious for torturing suspects during interrogation.

Some victims have won damages after alleging that they were tortured while in police custody.

Over the past few years the force has paid hundreds of thousands of maloti as compensation to victims of police torture.

Last year the Ombudsman found that suspects were tied to benches, tractor tyres and rims while in police cells.

There have also been tales of police officers beating suspects to wring confessions of their alleged crimes.

In some cases some confessions have been rejected by the courts of law after they were found to have been extracted using force. 

Some police posts, especially in remote areas of the country, have no water.

Police officers themselves complain about their working conditions.

Resources for basic policing work are scarce, police officers say.

They also complain about their salaries.

The public complains that police officers often demand bribes.

Theko said the APPRI’s findings will be presented to Police Commissioner ’Malejaka Letooane before the end of this year.

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