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Police ordered to pay torture victim M100 000

Tefo Tefo

MASERU — The High Court has awarded M100 000 in damages to a government employee who was unlawfully arrested and chained to a police van for 19 hours by the police two years ago.

Apesi Ratšele, an official in the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture, was suing Police Commissioner ’Malejaka Letooane for the gruesome ordeal he suffered after he was arrested at a roadblock while he was on his way to Morija in October 2009.

Ratšele had cited Attorney General Tšokolo Makhethe as the second defendant.

He said the two officers handcuffed and chained him to the bull-bar of a police vehicle after accusing him of driving under the influence of alcohol.

In his testimony Ratšele had told the court that his ordeal started   after he was stopped by the police at a road-block at Ha Moruthoane while on his way to Morija for the annual Morija Arts and Cultural Festival.

He said the police accused him of driving under the influence of alcohol, an allegation he denied. 

Ratšele said while the other two people in his car were drinking he himself had not had any alcohol.

He said he quarrelled with the police until they got him to take a breathalyser test to ascertain if he was above the legal limit. 

He said after the test the police officers told him that the reading was 115mg but he disputed this saying the reading was 0.5845, which is below the legal limit.

The police officers then handcuffed him from behind and chained him to the bull-bar of one police vehicles parked at the roadblock.

Ratšele said he remained standing while still chained to the bull-bar the whole night.

He told the court that at one time when he wanted to relieve himself, one policeman released his hand for him to unzip his trousers.

Ratšele had further told the court that he was released in the morning at 4.30am when the police wanted to handcuff another man whom they said was also troublesome.

He said he was then told to go without being taken to the police station or being charged.

The police officers involved were identified as Kahlolo, Ralejakane and Mokhali Lichaba.

Ratšele filed the case in the High Court against the commissioner of police for damages resulting from his unlawful arrest and illtreatment.

In her judgment on Wednesday, High Court judge Justice Kelello Guni said Ratšele “has made out a proven case for him to be awarded the damages on the amount set out and proved”.

“For these reasons this action proceeds. The damages are granted as prayed with costs,” she said.

Justice Guni said Ratšele’s arrest was unlawful. She said the defendants (Letooane and Makhethe) only served summons on Ratšele on January 2010 when he had been arrested in October the previous year.

“Why did those policemen wait for this long — nearly six months to charge the plaintiff with the offence of driving a motor vehicle on the public road while he was under the influence of alcohol?

“Is this a trumped up charge? What made them take so long to consider charging this plaintiff? Had they forgotten all about it? Was it because they saw the summons and they had to create a defence against the charge made against them?

“This seemed to be more probable, particularly because up to this day that case has never been placed before the Magistrate’s Court,” Justice Guni said.

Justice Guni said the policemen had arrested Ratšele but failed to charge him with any offence.

“Therefore the arrest was unlawful,” she said.

Justice Guni said Ratšele deserved the M100 045 that he had claimed because the police also did not appear in court to defend the case.

“Plaintiff has made out a proven case for him to be awarded the damages in the amount set out and proved.

“For these reasons this action succeeds.

“The damages are granted as prayed with costs,” Justice Guni ordered.

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