Deal with rogue police officers

Deal with rogue police officers

THE matter of police brutality came to the fore once again this week after Parliament instructed Police Minister ’Mampho Mokhele and Commissioner Holomo Molibeli to discipline rogue officers.
For once, both the government and the opposition were in total agreement that we have rogue officers within our police who will have to be taken to task when they cross the line.
Parliament wants the rogue officers to face disciplinary action, including criminal charges when they flout the law.
For as long as we can remember, the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) has been dogged by serious allegations of torture and human rights violations.

There have been well documented cases in which the police were accused of brutal torture. That is why the government has been successfully sued in the courts of law in the past.
The issue of police brutality is one big dent on the LMPS’ crest.
However, we would have failed if we were not to provide the context in which the police have been operating over the last few years.
In a highly polarised society such as Lesotho, we cannot put it past our police that some became caught up in our toxic politics. The result has been a serious negation of their commitment to professionalism.

We now wait to see how far the police minister and commissioner will go to ensure a change of culture within the police. Basotho expect to see them deal with the rogue police officers without fear or favour.
Predictably, the opposition has been quick to capitalise on this burning issue. It says at least 40 Basotho have died in the hands of the police over the last two years. It says no criminal charges have been levelled against the perpetrators.
The issue of police brutality has done much damage to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s reputation as a democrat who is guided by the rule of law.

Thabane, who openly told the police to “beat up suspects”, was this week forced to make a dramatic U-turn when he admitted in parliament that the matter of police brutality had gone out of hand.
In their effort to stamp out crime, the police appear to have crossed the line of decency and acceptable law enforcement practices.
The opposition says the fault squarely lies with the government which gave the police a “blank cheque” to beat up suspects. The result has been a bitter national outcry.

We are not surprised that the opposition has sought to squeeze political capital out of this national tragedy.
Former secretary general of the Lesotho People’s Congress, Bokang Ramatšella, has even written to the International Criminal Court asking it to investigate Thabane and Molibeli for crimes against humanity.
That was a long shot.
While there might be some incidents of human rights violations here and there, we do not believe the matter has deteriorated to levels that would warrant ICC intervention.

Besides, the opposition will first need to exhaust all local remedies to address their concerns.
That is why we are endorsing the latest attempts by Parliament to push for a lasting solution on the matter.
If there is any lesson that we have learnt in the last two years it is that our politicians must never be seen to be tacitly endorsing any acts of brutality.

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