THE opposition Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) party says Prime Minister Thomas Thabane must be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for allegedly “granting the security agencies a free pass” to kill innocent citizens in Lesotho.
The party also said ministers Tefo Mapesela (Defence and National Security) and ‘Mampho Mokhele (Police and National Security) should also be prosecuted along with the premier.
The party’s demands are contained in an 8 January 2019 letter to the ICC secretariat. The letter, which further accuses Dr Thabane of condoning “the hideous, barbaric acts” of the security agencies against innocent Basotho, was also copied to the African Union (AU), Amnesty International and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
It was written on behalf of the SR by its secretary general, Mapali Molula.
“As you would be aware, the current administration gained power after the 3 June 2017 general elections, Ms Molula states in the letter.
“Nonetheless, the killings of the innocent citizens by the security forces in this country is alarming. I must say however, that this is not surprising as the said forces have been granted a free pass by the Prime Minister himself.”
She accused Dr Thabane of making statements in the national assembly last year which appeared to incite the security agencies to torture criminal suspects.
She further alleged that Dr Thabane refused to withdraw his incendiary statements even after being asked to do so by the opposition bloc in parliament.
Ms Molula said as a result of the premier’s refusal to withdraw the statement, it had since “become his government’s motto that was even echoed by some of his cabinet ministers, in particular the Minister of Defence Force (Mr Mapesela).”
She said that it was greatly disappointing to see the inhuman and degrading acts of torture when the constitution had provisions for human rights and civil liberties.
“The constitution of Lesotho 1998 is very clear on fundamental human rights and makes it clear the justifiable acts under which such (rights) may be infringed. Nonetheless, it appears or seems that the Prime Minister together with his government have the indecency to trample the constitution under foot.
“The statistics would show that within the 19 months of Dr Thabane’s reign, poor and innocent people are dying mercilessly at the hands of their protectors whilst others are left permanently disabled.
She further said that the failure to prosecute members of the security agencies clearly showed that the government condoned the human rights violations.
“Therefore, we as the SR, appeal to you for intervention as Lesotho ratified and domesticated the fundamental human rights protocols to observe and protect individuals’ rights from abuse. We humbly submit that Dr Thabane together with the responsible ministers of security force agencies be subjected to criminal prosecution for violation of human rights in Lesotho.”
Dr Thabane has been criticised by the opposition as well as local human rights groups for statements seen as inciting or encouraging police brutality.
Last November, Dr Thabane told an ABC rally in Ha Lesiamo in Leribe that the police should be tough on criminals, saying “anyone who chooses to steal should suffer immensely at the hands of the police”.
“The police and the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) are working together to patrol the borders of this country to eradicate stock theft.
“Anyone who wants to live in peace should have their own animals and anyone who chooses to steal should suffer immensely at the hands of the police.
“I don’t care how that will be done. I am not a police officer and how they (the police) shall do it is entirely dependent on them- it is their business. I am not a police officer and whatever you (the police) choose to do is up to you,” Dr Thabane said.
On her part, Minister Mokhele publicly admitted that the police used illegal methods including torture to extract confessions from suspects.
Ms Mokhele made the revelation at a ceremony where the LMPS was presented with forensic equipment which was donated by the Algerian government.
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.
Last month, Mr Mapesela who had just be moved to the Defence portfolio from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, used his maiden speech to declare war on murderers and as well as criminals who use the Mohokare (Caledon) River to smuggle stolen livestock to and from neighbouring South Africa.
Mr Mapesela said his call should not be seen as an incitement to human rights abuses as criminals should not be considered as people with rights.
“We have been very patient with criminals who kill people mercilessly on daily basis such as the massacres in Rothe and Kolo this year which have left innocent people living in fear.
“Most of these killings are connected to Famo music (rivalries) or illegal mining activities while some criminals kill innocent souls in order to steal their livestock. Quite often livestock and mohair are smuggled through Mohokare but we have now come to a point where we say enough is enough.
“Criminals and murderers should retire immediately. The army’s job is not to arrest people so those who have been acting as Goliaths on the residents of this country will be collected as corpses. Someone with a firearm should not be considered a person with human rights but he must be eliminated as his intention is to kill. Innocent people’s rights should be prioritised over criminals’ so-called rights.
“There is this trend of criminals who call themselves BTKs (Born to kill) gain respect for killing certain numbers of people. I believe no one wants to have their loved ones killed and the army is going to ensure that it eradicates that satanic behaviour,” Mr Mapesela said.