Judge says soldiers ‘traumatised’ him

Judge says soldiers ‘traumatised’ him

MASERU – A High Court judge says he has been battling high blood pressure ever since soldiers stormed his chambers with AK47 assault rifles in 2015. Justice Semapo Peete was speaking at an advocacy seminar to discuss how the absence of a human rights commission has led to systematic human rights violations in Lesotho over the years.

The judge was hearing a string of habeas corpus applications after several soldiers were rounded up and held in secret locations where they were allegedly tortured. The soldiers, under the command of the then boss Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, stormed his chambers brandishing rifles. Some of the soldiers had their faces covered with balaclavas.

He said among the soldiers was a practicing lawyer, Brigadier Bulane Sechele, who is now late.
“As a result I developed high blood pressure and I also notified His Majesty the King about it,” he said.
He said human rights have been violated for so many years in Lesotho.

“And what hurts is that courts of law have been powerless over the years,” he said.
Justice Peete also said for courts to protect human rights it is necessary to have a human rights commission.
“Humans have a right to life, a right to personal liberty and a right to freedom (from) torture and inhumane treatment,” he added.

He also said according to section 24 of the Constitution, human rights do not apply to soldiers and police officers.
“We are appealing to those in power to review this section for the sake of Basotho,” he said.

He said a human rights commission should not be a department of the governmental under ministerial control.
“It should be independent,” he said.
He also said courts are not happy with the death of Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao and Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo.

“Motšomotšo’s death was perpetrated by Sechele who was a lawyer and also was part of soldiers who went to my chamber with guns,” he said.
Transformation Resource Centre director Tsikoane Peshoane said soldiers used to violate human rights.
“We believe that with the human rights commission they will be handled with care,” he said.

He also said the purpose of TRC is to raise awareness so that mistakes that happened in the past do not happen again.
“We have a desire to establish structures of good governance and the commission is one of them that will help guide Lesotho to peace,” he said.
“We must see the rule of law in this country and we must also see human rights respected,” Peshoane said.

Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Justice, Tanki Mothae, said they have embarked on consultations with civil society organizations.
“We are doing it for the success of the commission itself,” he said.
He also said it is a must that the commission is established for the sake of peace, harmony and tranquility of Basotho.

European Union representative Christian Manahl said national reforms will deal with some of the issues that were raised.
“One hopes they will have human rights in their heads as they plan,” he said.
“Rights are important as social and economic rights are challenged as a result of human rights violations,” he added.
He also said the European Union is founded on respect of human dignity and human rights.

“EU is defending human rights because we have learned human rights the hard way,” he said.
Manahl said Lesotho went through difficult times whereby human rights were violated by individuals from security institutions.

Nkheli Liphoto

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