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Mosisili rejects torture probe



staff Reporter


PRIME Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has rejected calls by a team of lawyers to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of torture against detained soldiers.

Mosisili said setting up a Commission of Inquiry would be seen to be “running a parallel process to that of the court of law seized with the question of the allegged mutiny”.

In a five-page letter sent to the soldiers’ attorneys, Mosisili said the torture allegation is not new as “it has been peddled by some media houses” in pursuit of a political agenda “against the present ruling administration”.

“To me the allegation has been no more than a political smear campaign and propaganda,” Mosisili said in the hard-hitting letter.

Mosisili was responding to a letter dated June 20 from Mosotho Attorneys that was signed by five lawyers who are representing the detained soldiers.

The lawyers are Attorney Khotso Nthontho and Advocates Koili Ndebele, ’Mole Kumalo, Monaheng Rasekoai and Christopher Lephuthing.

The lawyers had told Mosisili that the manner in which the army arrested their clients “fit the definition of enforced disappearance under Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance”.

They also said their clients had been tortured at Setibing military facility with most of them being blindfolded throughout their detention.

They also claimed their clients were shackled on the wrists and ankles, submerged into below freezing water, tied naked on a pole at subzero temperatures, kicked and suffocated with a tube, denied access to food, water and medication and suspended by hanging their handcuffed wrists tied behind the back on the roof as well as being subjected to electric shocks.

The alleged torture was meant to force them to implicate other members of the Lesotho Defence Force and civillians in a crime of mutiny against the commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.

The lawyers said some of the tortured soldiers succumbed to the interrogation and are now accomplice witnesses.

“There are further allegations that some of the said accomplice witnesses were compelled to sign confession forms under torture,” the lawyers’ letter reads.

The lawyers cited the Constitution of Lesotho, African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as legal tools in the fight against torture.

They said under international law countries are required to carry out investigations of torture on their own initiative “even if there has been no formal complaint”.

They requested Mosisili to set up a commission of inquiry to probe the alleged torture or else they will “consider extra-territorial means to get justice” because “the crime of torture attracts universal jurisdiction”.

They also told Mosisili that their clients had lost confidence in “the state machinery to ever investigate these serious allegations of torture and abuse and to bring those responsible to justice”.

They said Mosisili’s independent commission should not include “members of the LDF, LMPS, and offices of the Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions”.

But in his response, Mosisili said the torture claims are “cheap politicking” especially because the Court of Appeal had “questioned and rejected the same allegations”.

“Ordinarily, that ought to have put the matter to rest, once the courts of law had pronounced on the issue,” Mosisili said in the letter, adding: “I am really appalled that your clients have found it fit to raise with me the issue, unless the message is that they give scant, if any, consideration to the judgements of the courts of law.”

“It would be remiss of me to institute a commission of inquiry, well aware that the courts of law have already pronounced on the matter,” he said.

Mosisili also said the SADC Commission established to investigate the killing of former army boss, Maaparankoe Mahao, chaired by a Botswana judge Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi, had dismissed the allegation as “information peddling”.

“I think, with the label, the Commission put its finger on the right pulse. Your clients must exercise caution not to go with the flow of what is fashionable to say, even if the virtue of truthfulness is, in the process, sacrificed,” he said.

“Repeating a lie does not turn it into truth.”

He also said as the Court of Appeal has found, there was “nothing wrong with the arrest and detention of your clients”.

“Sincerely, I cannot see any otherwise but that the issue of whether your clients were lawfully arrested or detained is dead and buried, judicially,” he said.

Mosisili told the lawyers that “there are effective legal remedies at the disposal of your clients in the High Court” to address their claims of torture.

He also added that the government “will verify the claims, and if at all found to be true, necessary corrective action will follow as a matter-of-course”.

He also said the lawyers were being unfair in saying the government had failed to act in relation to allegations of torture because “this is the very first time I have a complaint directed to my office”.

Mosisili said he found it interesting that the lawyers’ letter did not say “the alleged torture of your clients was reported to the police…which really raises my concern whether your clients seriously mean what they say”.

“It remains to be seen what really this is all about: truth or political propaganda?”

He also said it does not make sense that the clients say they have lost confidence in the Attorney General and DPP’s offices.

“I fail to make sense from your letter how possibly these two offices have anything to do with the army allegedly torturing your clients,” he said.

“It remains a mystery that they are mentioned in the letter.”

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