• Intimidations on Legal Practitioners

    July 30, 2015 | News |
    • 1.

      Recent events in Lesotho show that the rule of law, administration of justice and the practice of law are clearly under siege. The most alarming development is the tacit unleashing of the army upon members of the legal profession and members of the public. In terrorist fashion similar to some turbulent parts of the world army – hooded operatives kidnap other members of the army. They detain these members of the army in unspecified locations where their families and lawyers cannot have access. Nowadays terror and consternation is sweeping through the nation.

      2.

      The Council of the Law Society of Lesotho has received with a sense of shock that after applications for habeas corpus were lodged with the High Court of Lesotho, these members of the army were brought to court by masked and heavily armed members of the army. The detainees were chained, that is, both hands and feet. These detainees were even ushered into the courtrooms still shackled. Clearly this runs at loggerheads with the tenets of the Bill of Rights. It is an utter insult to the integrity of the Court. This kind of behaviour ought to be deprecated in the most strongest terms. The dignity and independence of our courts of law must be observed and jealously guarded at all times by every citizen of this Kingdom.

      3.

      The Council further received reports that it is during and/or after the hearing of the aforesaid habeas corpus applications that some member of the legal profession were threatened and intimidated by members of the army. It is in the same occasion that some members of the public were assaulted. Surely this is unheard off in a democratic dispensation such as ours where we have a Constitution with a Bill of Rights. The most shocking effect of all this acts is that the government is silent on all these issues.

      4.

      These abductions, tortures and illegal detentions, therefore belie the very much vaunted reform of the army under the present dispensation. Any so – called reforms that are going on would seem to be geared not towards eradicating the culture of military politicisation and lawlessness but bringing the army into the political fold of the politicians. It is our firm believe that a government that sets loose against citizens an army hooded operatives under the cover of darkness cannot have a place amongst civilised nations.

      5.

      Lesotho has set herself on the irreversible democratic road of constitutional governance, unremitting observance of human rights and the rule of law. The critical road maps for this journey are the 1993 Constitution and other international treaties to which Lesotho is a party, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, United Nations Convention Against Torture, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, etc. All these instruments unequivocally and uncoditionally reject in toto torture, abductions and arbitrary arrests as well as assaults on human dignity. They thus impose several human rights duties and obligations on the government of Lesotho and all its organs.

      6.

      The army’s duties and obligations entail the effective protection of all citizens of this country. The corresponding duty of the government is also to protect the nation from abductions, torture and all forms of ill treatment and degrading punishment. This absolute prohibition per the Constitution, international law and the laws of God enjoins the Government to:

      1. Thoroughly investigate the acts complained off above and punish, if need be those involved therein;
      2. Cause immediate cessation of any acts complained off so that they do not recur in future;
      3. Use only officially recognised and publicly known places of detention that maintain effective and transparent custody records;
      4. Allow detainees access to their lawyers and enable them consultation;
      5. Allow detainees access to their families and medical attention;
      6. Provide humane conditions of detention;

      7.

      A clarion call is hereby made to the international community in general, SADC, AU, SADC Lawyers Association, ICRC and the ICJ to send fact finding missions in Lesotho to assess the situation on the ground and intervene if need be.