End culture of violence

End culture of violence

In addressing the Congregation of St Louise in Matsieng on Sunday August 27, 2017, Her Majesty the Queen said Basotho were crying for peace and stability while others were running away from their country for fear of their lives. The statement could not be further from the truth.
Two days later, on August 29, 2017, the Leader of the Official Opposition Honourable Mathibeli Mokhuthu and the Leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), and former Deputy Prime Minister Honourable Mothetjoa Metsing fled the country for fear of their lives. They both claimed that police were hunting them down and their lives were in danger.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, speaking in parliament recently, instructed the police to beat suspects, saying he’ll stand by them. The question is: What happened to the culture of promoting human rights and particularly the right to life in Lesotho?
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHRTS) on December 10, 1948, the concept of human rights has become one of the most potent in contemporary politics. The concept of human rights is normative in nature in the sense that it prescribed how people ought to behave.

By extension it was designed primarily to prescribe to governments what they ought and ought not to do. By its very nature, the contemporary concept of human rights is intended to protect individuals from the abuse of power by governments.
It was intended to prevent tyrannical governments where the ruler governs in his own interest by unjustly terrorising people and using oppressive instruments of state like the police to brutalise citizens. Human rights therefore, include rights to property and to participate in civil affairs.

In modern democracies, the ruled are expected to obey their rulers since they have granted them the powers to protect them through the electoral process.
In other words elections have become a potent instrument of granting the elected government our rights to govern and protect us.
Nevertheless, our obligation to the state is conditioned on the basis that the state does not violate our rights. In fact, all individuals were obliged to obey the government provided it did not threaten their preservation.

This means that the ruler must balance the rights and the law since the two concepts are opposite of each other. That is, rights are liberty and law is restraint.

The spate of lawlessness in Lesotho
The current spate of human rights violations in Lesotho have reached a stage whereby no ordinary citizen can remain quiet and watch members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) commit these acts without questioning their morality.

These actions became immediately noticeable after orders which were given by the Prime Minister (PM) Thomas Thabane to the police at his Masianokeng rally to his party followers.
According to the Lesotho Lawyers for Human Rights, the Premier ordered the LMPS to assault suspects while no one is watching.
These lawyers argued that the PM’s instigations to the police to commit torture or inflict inhuman or degrading punishments to suspects, is not only capricious but contemptuous of the Constitution and civilized values as enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human rights.

Basotho should come together and stop this culture of human rights violations irrespective of who is committing them.
Our collective failure to rid ourselves of these violations from our consciousness will lead us in a similar direction to that faced by Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) as expressed in his famous poem during the Nazi genocide in Germany against the Jews.

He (Niemöller) protested against those Germans who did nothing to stop the Nazi rise to power, and who stood by as the Nazis purged group after group of “undesirables” in their country.
“When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; after all I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; after all I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; after all I was not a trade unionist. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out”.
Most people in Lesotho tend to claim they know something about human rights. Others claim to be human rights lawyers. But when human rights are violated by our police, nobody comes to the fore and admonishes them to stop.

What is interesting is that the social media is splashed with grievances against MPs loans which would have been settled by the state. Conversely, there is no such noise when it comes to human rights violations.  The police have become notorious for assaulting suspects under arrest and detaining them for more than the legally allowed 48 hours required by the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.

The acts of police brutality in recent days have become worrying. On July 28, 2017, Mofoka police stopped people who were escorting a deceased from a local mortuary for burial.
They beat them up, chased them and fatally shot one. His body was found the following day with his body parts missing. Similarly, in Leribe another suspected thief on is alleged to have lost his life in police custody on August 7, 2017. The police appear to have become a law unto themselves.

Observance of Human Rights
What must be noted is that, once a suspect is apprehended or is in police custody, his rights have been taken away from him. That is, he or she can be asked questions but shall be protected from any assault emanating from his arrest either directly or indirectly.
The police are to ensure that the suspect does not even sustain any scratch on his or her body. This is what the human rights concept is all about.
Most importantly, suspect(s), must be presented before courts of law and charged accordingly as soon as possible. Related to our discussion about torture in detention, Article 5 of the UDHRTS forbids torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. This Article restrains governments from torturing suspects in detention.
Therefore, no suspect can be assaulted while in detention. Article 7 of the 1948 UDHRTS, states that all are equal before the law.

Suspects are entitled to equal protection of the law without discrimination. Victims and suspects alike, must be treated the same.
They deserve equal treatment before the law. Chapter Two Section 4 of the Constitution of Lesotho has also mandated the Lesotho government to ensure that nobody is tortured while in detention and that his or her human rights shall be protected.

Therefore, in any democracy, the role of the police is primarily to defend and protect the rights of all citizens not to violate them. We live in an environment of human rights where even detainees’ rights must be protected by the police.
We do not live in a state of nature where there is war of all against all. In that environment, there is no government and therefore no police service to protect our rights. In such an environment, the enjoyment of human rights does not exist.

The Violation of Human Rights in Lesotho The arrest of the deputy leader of the LCD on Monday August 28, 2017, and his alleged assault, after being called by the police does not augur well for a democratic Lesotho.
On Tuesday August 29, 2017, Honourable Tšeliso Mokhosi had to be seen by a police doctor. If indeed, he was not assaulted by police, why was there a dire need for him to be taken to a police doctor?
Or rather, why was he denied visitation rights by his family and the right to see a doctor of his choice? According to some eye witnesses, Mokhosi was described as limping, his face was bruised and his hands were swollen.

He seemed to be in extreme pain and distress. He was refused the opportunity to talk to journalists and his party faithful.
The arrest of Mokhosi follows that of his former driver, one Zele Mphesheane, who was arrested on August 24, 2017, and kept in detention until the afternoon of August 28, 2017.
He was released without charge. He too had been beaten by police.

It is alleged the beating only ceased when he agreed to implicate Mokhosi in a case the police were investigating.
It has also been alleged that Honourable Mokhosi was also beaten to implicate Honourable Metsing who was also going to be arrested, beaten and implicate Honourable Mokhothu who would in turn implicate other congress leaders from the opposition parties.

These were some of the reasons that motivated the above two leaders to flee the country.
Conclusion

In a modern society under democratic rule, the police should never become a law unto themselves and assault suspects in detention.
This situation appears to be taking Lesotho back to the state of nature where there is no government, where there is no law and order and therefore no democratic institution to enforce the law.
Surely, Lesotho graduated from this status over 200 years ago.
The 1789 French Revolution was motivated by similar acts of brutality, insecurity and unfairness in public affairs amongst others.
The Revolutionaries’ main aim was to protect their rights. These were those of liberty, property, security and freedom from oppression. If the police start oppressing people, there is high likelihood that they will be resisted.

It would be unfortunate in a democratic Lesotho if the country were to be dragged in that direction.
Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, once observed that, “throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph”.
It is important for Basotho to come out strongly against any threats or forms of intimidation against people.

Dr Fako Likoti

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