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Suspects must not be allowed to derail court processes

 

THE judiciary should come down hard on the detained soldiers who are accused of various crimes including murder and attempted murder.

The soldiers should not be allowed to continue their tomfoolery which has resulted in their trials being repeatedly postponed.

Elsewhere in the world, suspects will do everything in their power to expedite their trials in the hope of proving their innocence so that they can regain their freedom.

But this is not the case with some members of Lesotho’s security agencies accused of various crimes.

We saw how the murder-accused former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, and fellow suspects filed petition after petition challenging the recruitment of foreign judges to try their cases.

If they were not alleging that the recruitment process was flawed, then they would be claiming that the judges were unlikely to give them a fair trial.

As we report elsewhere in this edition, Lieutenant General Kamoli and his colleagues’ prima donna behaviour has been seized upon by Captain Litekanyo Nyakane and fellow suspects facing charges of murdering three civilians in Mafeteng in 2012.

Botswana Judge, Onkemetse Tshosa, is probably wondering what kind of people we are after the Friday antics of Captain Nyakane in the courtroom.

Captain Nyakane is accused of several crimes including treason against the first government of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

He has been in remand prison for almost three years and one would imagine he would be itching for his trials to commence so that he can prove his innocence and go home.

But judging by his behaviour on Friday, he appears determined to make the remand prison his home for the foreseeable future.

He refused to plead when the charges where read out to him. He said he would not do so because he had “no confidence in the court”.

His far from exemplary behaviour was copied by his co-accused who also refused to plead to the charges.

It had been clear from the onset that the accused soldiers had no intention of allowing the trial to begin.

They had even claimed that they were being denied food in prison and therefore they were too weak to stand trial.

One of the accused, Private Thebe Tšepe, even said that unless the court first addressed the issue of his “illegal detention”, he would not plead to the charges.

On this occasion and at other times, the soldiers’ lawyers have condoned their clients’ wayward behaviour.

It has been suggested before, when the accused soldiers were pulling their stunts during the time of the Thomas Thabane administration, that they hoped that by delaying proceedings the government would collapse and be replaced by another that was sympathetic to them.

The Thabane government duly collapsed on 20 May 2020 due to the infighting within the former premier’s own All Basotho Convention (ABC) party.

But the new ABC-Democratic Congress (DC) governing coalition has rightly refrained from interfering with judicial processes and left the soldiers to face the music.

This, however, has not stopped them from their annoying antics in the courtroom. Maybe they know something that nobody else knows. Maybe they believe this government will collapse soon and be replaced with one that will free them before their cases are heard.

How else can their reprehensible conduct be rationalised and explained?

It would have been laughable or tolerable were it not for the fact that there are huge implications associated with the unnecessary and inordinate delays in trying cases.

For starters, the foreign judges are not here forever. They are working on time bound contracts to try and finalise cases within a stipulated time. When that time expires, new contracts and funding would have to be negotiated. International development partners are paying the judges’ salaries and their stay in the country. They do not have deep pockets to keep doing this forever.

The judges are also human and they want to make progress their work and do other things. They should not be unnecessarily bogged down by suspects who appear not to have any care in the world.

Victims and families of victims also want justice to be done.

The judiciary must therefore find ways of putting the brakes on the suspects’ unbecoming behaviour so that the cases may be expedited.

As the saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied.

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