Civic group slams general amnesty plan

Civic group slams general amnesty plan

Staff Reporter

MASERU

A civil society group, Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), wants the government to dump its plan to declare a general amnesty towards soldiers accused of human rights abuses.

Instead the TRC said the government should comply with a recommendation by a SADC commission of inquiry to grant amnesty only to soldiers who have been accused of mutiny.

The Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi-led commission recommended an amnesty for soldiers who have been in detention at Maseru Maximum Security Prison on charges of mutiny since May last year.

The amnesty would also cover soldiers who fled the country last year.

The SADC commission also recommended that soldiers who have been implicated in criminal acts such as murder and attempted murder should be subjected to the full process of the law and be prosecuted.

Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has however criticised the SADC commission’s recommendation arguing it is biased in favour of the detained soldiers accused of mutiny.

Mosisili two weeks ago told Parliament and the SADC Double Troika Summit in Botswana last week that a general amnesty would address the bias in Justice Phumaphi’s report.

However, the TRC on Tuesday told a press conference that it only “accepts amnesty for suspected mutineers as recommended by Phumaphi”.

“This means that as an NGO that believes in good governance and the rule of law, TRC advocates that the law should take its course on criminal activities perpetrated by soldiers,” TRC’s director Tšoeu Petlane said.

“Amnesty should not be broadened in such a manner that it implies impunity for criminal actions including human rights violations,” he said.

The TRC said it is fair that the mutiny suspects be given amnesty because the army “tortured them” to force them to confess that they partook in the alleged mutiny plot.

As for others who were implicated during the SADC Commission hearing, the TRC said they deserve to be investigated to establish whether they are guilty of the crimes and prosecuted if there is any need because “they violated human rights”.

A TRC official, Tsikoane Peshoane, said the Lesotho constitution is clear that those who commit human rights violations such as murder should be brought to court for justice to be done.

The TRC said it is proud that it was in the forefront in calling for a comprehensive, inclusive and detailed commission of inquiry to unearth the core causes of Lesotho’s problems and the government responded by inviting SADC to establish such a commission.

“The Phumaphi Commission has since become the cornerstone of efforts, mainly by SADC, to restore stability in Lesotho prompted among others by the killing of LDF commander Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao in June 2015,” Petlane said.

“The implementation of its recommendations has become the main challenge, and the SADC Double Troika meeting sought to receive progress on this,” he said.

He also highlighted that other partners of Lesotho have also pointed to the implementation of Phumaphi’s recommendations as key to restoring the rule of law.

Petlane said the TRC is not hostile to the suggestion of trying the suspected mutineers in the courts to establish their guilt or innocence “but our worry is that the process of doing that is not clean enough in the circumstances hence why we call for their amnesty in harmony with Phumaphi’s recommendations”.

He said the TRC supports decisions of the SADC Double Troika summit in Botswana last week “and further wish to note that they are in line with the calls of the Centre and its partners over the past two years”.

The TRC has always maintained that the Lesotho government should implement the Phumaphi commission’s recommendations “and communicate a clear plan for all actions necessary to fulfil them”.

The TRC also hailed the SADC decision calling for the return of exiled opposition leaders, the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party leader and former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, the Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Thesele ’Maseribane and the leader of the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) Keketso Rantšo.

Petlane rejected charges that the TRC is politically biased adding they advance the cause of the people, especially those whose rights have been violated.

“An insinuation that we are politically biased is not correct because we are not aligned to any political party,” Peshoane said, adding: “Even any worker at the TRC is not expected to show any partisan politics. I challenge anybody to come forward and show us any of us who are active in party politics.”

Peshoane said any TRC worker who is found to be aligned to a political party is dismissed.

Another official, Mabusetsa Thamae, said history has proved that since the TRC was established in 1979 the group has stuck to the truth and sought democratic means to solve Lesotho’s problems irrespective of the opinions of either the opposition or the government.

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