Lawyer  queries judge’s  fitness

Lawyer queries judge’s fitness

MASERU-A lawyer representing one of the detained soldiers in Maseru Maximum Prison has demanded a full investigation into the fitness of a judge who was appointed to hear the matter.

Advocate Zwelakhe Mda KC, who is representing Private Sebilo Sebilo, said Justice Onkemetse Tshosa’s criminal record should be investigated.
In a letter he sent to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on Tuesday, Mda KC said the body must investigate Justice Tshosa’s conduct while he was still on the Botswana bench.

He said media reports about the judge’s behaviour “are serious enough to warrant an investigation by the relevant stakeholders as a matter of extreme urgency”.
Mda said he had read online stories which indicated that Justice Tshosa was convicted by the Botswana Magistrate’s Court for assaulting a police officer.
The report appeared in the media in June 2012.

It was also reported that the judge had allegedly failed to provide a breath specimen after he was involved in a road accident in 2009.
Mda said the judge was subsequently sentenced to 18 months in prison which was wholly suspended.
He said the then President Ian Khama then appointed a tribunal to investigate if Justice Tshosa was still fit to hold office as a judge.

However, in August 2012 Justice Tshosa resigned from the judiciary of Botswana “on the day the tribunal was due to sit”.
Advocate Mda said in terms of the Constitution of Lesotho any person charged with a criminal offence is entitled to a fair hearing by an independent and impartial court established by law.

“This right is not subject to any limitation,” Advocate Mda said.
He said the standard of behaviour to be expected of a judge is set out in the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct which are applicable in Lesotho.
He said the principles include that a judge “shall ensure that his or her conduct, both in and out of court, maintains and enhances the confidence of the public, the legal profession and litigants in the impartiality of the judge”.

“A judge shall ensure that his or her conduct is above reproach in the view of a reasonable observer,” he said.
Advocate Mda said the JSC is constitutionally obligated to recommend for appointment as judge a candidate with proven track record of moral restitute and is a fit and proper person to be appointed to the high judicial office as a judge.

“As a corollary a person with a serious criminal record cannot be appointed as a judge in the Kingdom of Lesotho,” he said.
“I am duty-bound to establish the veracity of the media reports about the background of the Honourable Judge – so that I may advise my client accordingly.”

He said he believed that the JSC, “this revered constitutional body”, will not find it difficult to attend to this matter urgently.
Private Sebilo is among a group of soldiers who have been charged with the murder of three civilians in Mafeteng in 2012.
He denies the charge.

Itumeleng Khoete

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