House of torture

House of torture

MASERU – EARLY last month, Motlatsi Rantlo, was in the company of friends from the Seakhi famo music group when they were pulled over by the police at a roadblock in Ha-Mofoka in Koro-Koro. Rantlo says the police ordered them to roll on the tarred road as they beat them with sticks.
He says it was during that beating that one man from their group tried to flee but was allegedly shot dead by the police.
The man was found by his relatives two days later with some of his body parts including the mouth, nose, eyes and brain missing.
Rantlo says he was among the last people to leave the area after that ordeal.

He says he later gave a graphic blow by blow statement to the police about what had happened.
He says he witnessed the whole drama unfold as he was among those at the receiving end.
But two weeks ago, Rantlo went into hiding after he heard that the police were looking for him.
Rantlo, from Tholang in Koro-Koro, about 18 kilometres south of Maseru, says he cannot hand over himself to the police because of the stories of brutal torture of suspects by the police that he has heard.

He says he fears the police will assault him if he hands himself. Rantlo says two weeks ago the police stormed his home in the wee hours of the morning to arrest him. He says he is not afraid to go to court to answer any charges but he is afraid that his life might be in danger if he is arrested by the police. He says had he not run away it would be only his wife and child who would know who had taken him at that time.

“I asked the (police) to tell the chief that they were going to arrest me but they declined,” he says.

He says the police tried to unsuccessfully gain entry into his house through the door. When they failed, they broke a window pane at the back of his house in an attempt to slither into the house.
He says his mother heard the noise from his house and alerted neighbours who came to help.

Rantlo says at times, the plain-clothed police officers, travelling in an unmarked vehicle, would also visit his house.
He says he has been in hiding for the last two weeks.
Police spokesman Inspector Mpiti Mopeli says Rantlo and another man are the prime suspects in the Koro-Koro murder case.
He says the two should hand themselves to the police to help with investigations.

Rantlo’s story is yet another vivid illustration of the negative perception surrounding Lesotho’s police.
Human rights groups and the opposition have often accused the police of using brutal tactics to extract confessions, a charge the police deny.
Over the past five years, the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) has received at least 10 complaints from individuals who allege they were assaulted while in the police’s holding cells.

Most of the complaints have ended in the High Court. In recent years, the High Court has dealt with at least 10 cases in which complainants claimed close to M5 million from the police for assault while in detention.
For instance, former deputy education minister Apesi Ratšele was awarded M150 000 by the High Court after he sued the Commissioner of Police for assault.

Last week, former defence minister and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) deputy leader, Tšeliso Mokhosi, claimed he was tortured by the police until he urinated. He also says he defecated twice as a result of the relentless torture.
Mokhosi claims the police wanted him to confess that he participated in the murder of Constable Mokalekale Khetheng.

Senior LCD figures including Sekata say because of the police’s brutal interrogation tactics, they will not surrender to the police if called.
Opposition parties and the Lawyers for Human Rights, an advocacy organisation, have blamed Prime Minister Thomas Thabane for the rise in incidents of police brutality.

They accuse Thabane of inciting the police to beat up suspects, a charge the Prime Minister’s office has dismissed as nonsense.
A human rights officer at the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), Lepeli Moeketsi, says beating crime suspects during interrogation is a serious infringement of people’s human rights.

Moeketsi says Lesotho is a signatory to the 1948 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights which outlaws torture.
He says Lesotho is also a signatory to the Convention Against Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment.
He says the convention indicates that the dignity of an individual must be respected at all times.

Moeketsi says Lesotho has also attached its signature to Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights which abhors torture in all its forms. “There is also the Mandela Guidelines that Lesotho has attached her signature to,” he says.
He says the Mandela Guidelines show that where there are allegations that a person has been tortured by the police, the state must investigate such allegations.

Moeketsi says Section 8 of the Constitution of Lesotho deals with freedom from inhumane treatment.
He cited the case of Mokhosi who says he was beaten by the police to confess to killing Khetheng saying the assault was an infringement of the former minister’s rights. Moeketsi says confession under torture is not admissible in law.
“Confession should be made freely and voluntarily,” he says.

Moeketsi said the police should be well-resourced so that they are able to deal with suspects in a humane way adding the police must undergo basic training on issues of human rights. He says in 2015, the police arrived at Vuka Mosotho and split the men from the women.
He says the police appeared to have a list of names they were targeting and began beating up the men.
The incident left the villagers severely traumatised, he said.

In another incident, Moeketsi said the police stormed Ha-Mohohlo village in Taung in Mohale’s Hoek district in a bid to arrest men and boys in the village. He says when the police arrived, they found women only in the village.
He says the police then began beating the women asking them where their husbands had gone.

Moeketsi said the TRC took some of the cases like the Vuka Mosotho and Koro-Koro incidents to the Police Complaints Authority for intervention.
Ministry of Police spokesperson, ’Mateboho Mokhothu, said there is no law that authorises the police to beat up suspects during interrogation.
She however acknowledged some individuals had filed cases complaining they had been ill-treated by the police.

Mokhothu said such cases are being handled by the Police Complaints Authority.
She added the police will continue to work to ensure there is law and order in Lesotho.

Majara Molupe

Previous Police hunt for Letsoepa
Next Key witness wants suspect to remain in custody

About author

You might also like

News

RISE from the ashes!

MASERU – ORPHAN care is not about someone doing everything, but about everyone doing something. This is the spirit displayed by Relationship Inspiring Social Enterprise (RISE), a charity organisation working with

News

‘Surviving by the grace of God’

MASERU – Sparsely furnished dilapidated buildings with falling ceilings and broken windows count for court buildings in Lesotho. Leaking corrugated iron sheets and hazardous toilets complete the sorry sight – one

News

Chaos hits ABC

MASERU – THE All Basotho Convention (ABC) was this week thrown into turmoil after the chairman launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s wife, ‘Maeasiah Thabane. A seething Motlohi