Rights group blasts Thabane

Rights group blasts Thabane

MASERU – A human rights group wants Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to withdraw his “unlawful order” to the police to assault crime suspects or face court action.
In a statement, the Lesotho Lawyers for Human Rights (LLHR) said it was concerned by Thabane’s order “directing the police to torture alleged thieves” and the “castration of alleged rapists”.
The group said Thabane must “withdraw or retract his unlawful order to the police” or they would be compelled to launch a constitutional motion before the Constitutional Court for an appropriate relief.

It said immediately after Thabane’s order, there was “a chorus of complaints by members of the public about police brutality and savagery”
“It is clear that the police are acting with the blessing and on the instructions of the Prime Minister,” the statement said.
It said Thabane’s call was “contemptuous of the constitution and civilised values and standards”.
The statement was signed by the LLHR president Advocate Zwelakhe Mda KC. It was also copied to Thabane, the Speaker of Parliament Sephiri Motanyane, Ministers of Law and Police among others.

The statement was also sent to the SADC Oversight Mission, foreign diplomatic missions in Lesotho and Amnesty International.
Thabane has over the last few weeks called on police to deal firmly with crime suspects. Four weeks ago, he told his All Basotho Convention (ABC) supporters that the police should beat up suspects when they are not in the public view, an issue that raised the ire of rights groups and the opposition.

“Beat them up when you go out of public view and when you re-appear smile as if nothing happened,” Thabane said.
He repeated that statement in parliament while supporting a motion for the Ministry of Police to get more funds to allow it to effectively carry out its mandate.
Thabane said some criminals deserved to be assaulted because the public is tired of their behaviour.

Thabane repeated the same remarks during an interview with the state-owned Lesotho Television last week. He was at it again at his party’s rally in Teya-Teyaneng last weekend.  “The Prime Minister is on record directing the police to torture alleged thieves,” the statement reads. “Recent events of serious violations of human rights in the Kingdom are in truth not new. The only difference with regards to the latest incidents is that they are openly and officially instigated by the Prime Minister,” it reads.

The human rights lawyers also complained that Thabane “even called for the inhuman and degrading punishment of castration of alleged rapists”.
Last weekend he told his ABC supporters in Teya-Teyaneng that he will go to the United Nations and ask for a permission to “relieve rapists of this burden they are carrying,” referring to rapists’ sexual organs. “What is clear is that his call is contemptuous of the constitution and civilised values and standards enshrined therein as well as accepted International Human Rights Standards,” the statement reads.

The lawyers say Lesotho is a signatory to a number of international human rights statutes whose aim is to promote and protect fundamental human rights.
“The rule of law is fundamental to the protection of those rights”, the statement reads. The lawyers say it is a matter of great concern that human rights violations have been instigated by people in positions of power. The Minister of Police ’Mampho Mokhele last week said the police should deal harshly with theft, rape and murder suspects.

Mokhele told a pitso in Ribaneng in Mafeteng district last Friday that people who behave like animals are social misfits and “should be weeded out”.
The pitso was organised to help the residents of Ribaneng bury hatchet following famo music gang violence the has left scores dead.
Mokhele said she will work without respite to ensure there is order in the area.

The lawyers in the statement say “in any event, the giving of manifestly illegal order by a person in authority is itself a criminal offence in terms of section 18 of the Penal Code 2010”.
They say the Constitution of Lesotho provides for absolute prohibition of torture or inhuman or degrading punishment or other such treatment.
Lesotho has ratified the Rome Statute and gone further to domesticate it under Part VI of the Penal Code 2010, the lawyers say. The lawyers say it is significant that nowhere in the Penal Code is it permissible to use force to torture or main or kill suspects who are under the custody and control of the police, the army and prison warders.

“Force that is allowable to bring a suspect under control or to prevent a suspect from escaping or evading arrest has to be proportionate and exercised in a disciplined manner so as to respect the fundamental rights of the suspect or prisoner,” the statement reads. “It can never and should never be used as a licence by the law enforcement agencies to violate the constitutionally protected rights of suspects who in any event are constitutionally presumed to be innocent until the court of law finds otherwise,” it reads.

Thabane’s spokesman, Thabo Thakalekoala, told thepost that the premier’s office had not “received the letter from the Lesotho Lawyers for Human Rights, we’ve only heard about it”.
“If the lawyers say the Prime Minister should withdraw his statement, it’s very unfortunate that they don’t consider the rights of the victims of rape, torture, brutal killings and theft,” Thakalekoala said.

He suggested that they approach Thabane’s office to work hand in hand with him to fight delinquency instead of attacking him. “This will help to protect both the rights of the victims and those of the offenders,” he said. “It will also help to end crime,” he said.

Thakalekoala said it is the Prime Minister’s right to protect the rights of the victims of crime.  “However, the Prime Minister won’t have a problem to withdraw his statement if only they agree to work together with his office to end crime,” Thakalekoala said.

Majara Molupe

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