No to torture

No to torture

RECENT political developments in Lesotho over the last couple of weeks have put Lesotho back into the international limelight.
Former defence minister Tseliso Mokhosi was arrested two weeks ago in connection with the brutal killing of police constable Mokalekale Khetheng. Mokhosi has since been charged with murder.
Two high-profile opposition politicians, former deputy premier Mothetjoa Metsing and Democratic Congress (DC) deputy leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, have also fled the country claiming their lives were in danger.

Mokhothu and Metsing claim they fled after they were tipped off that their names were on a hit-list.
The government led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has vociferously denied claims it wants to harm its own people.
Communications Minister Joang Molapo has rubbished claims that the government has a hit list but insists it will prosecute without fear or favour all those charged with violating the law during the previous regime.

Yet it is the serious allegations being raised in the media that suspects, including Mokhosi, were severely tortured while in police custody that are of grave concern to us.
While the government is within its rights to prosecute all those charged with rights violations, it would be critical that such a process is conducted within the limitations of the law.
If suspects in the Khetheng murder were tortured, then the government risks bringing upon itself unnecessary international pressure.
Since the events of August 30, 2014, Lesotho has experienced nothing but turmoil.

Much was expected from the “people’s government” since it took over control in June this year to bring political stability to Lesotho.
The people do not want a vindictive government. They want a government under which their rights will be fully protected under the law.
They want a government that will not resort to the same brutal tactics that sent its own sons and daughters scurrying into exile over the last four years.

Of course those who committed crimes must be fairly tried without the instruments of torture being exerted on them to extract confessions.
Lesotho must respect its international obligations that bar the use of torture against suspects.
As we have argued in our previous editorials, torture has no place in a modern, democratic society.
It is a barbaric practice that must be condemned.

The government of Lesotho says it has nothing to hide.
Minister Molapo has even invited international rights groups such as Amnesty International to come and see how detainees are being treated.
It is within that spirit of openness and transparency that local civil society organisations, including the church, must be allowed unfettered access to detained suspects.
The decision last week by the prisons authorities to block civil society organisations from visiting Mokhosi to verify if he was in good health was therefore unfortunate.

Asking human rights activists to apply to see detained suspects, with the permission being granted seven days later, presumably when the wounds would have healed, smacks of a hidden agenda.
There is a lot of goodwill towards the new coalition government. The government must not squander that goodwill.

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