Rights groups want court martial recalled

Rights groups want court martial recalled

Maseru – THE Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) have called on Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to recall the court martial to formally discharge soldiers accused of mutiny.
The two rights groups said they are worried that if the court martial is not brought back to discharge soldiers accused of mutiny the charges will hang over their heads forever.

They said they fear that a new government or a new command at the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) could bring back the charges afresh.
The court was set up under the previous government led by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili in 2015 to try 23 soldiers who were accused of plotting mutiny against Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.

The soldiers, who were incarcerated at the Maseru Maximum Security Prison, were also accused of plotting to murder some senior army officials.
They were said to be rallying behind Maaparankoe Mahao who had replaced Kamoli. Mahao was later fired when Thabane lost the 2015 elections.
“We as the two organisations say the government through its legal might, must immediately recall the Court Martial so that it can formally dismiss the charges,” their joint statement reads.

The two organisations say the charges should be dropped especially because accomplice witnesses who claim that they were tortured so that they could implicate other soldiers that they planned the mutiny have written the Prime Minister saying they were forced to lie.
They argue that even the SADC-sanctioned Phumaphi Commission of Inquiry found that there was no evidence of a mutiny and that the charges were trumped up against the soldiers.

The two organisations say although the government publicised its stance of not supporting the mutiny charges, there is dragging of feet in implementing the decision to totally drop the charges or acquit the accused soldiers.
“This gives us an impression that this is not happening because it is in the hands of the army command not the government,” the statement reads.
“We appeal to the government to take charge.”

“The government’s decision to have the sitting of the Court Martial next year is the continuation of the violation of the rights of soldiers who have been charged with mutiny,” the statement reads.
“This issue also forestalls the preparation for the security and constitutional reforms,” it reads.

“It denies these soldiers an opportunity to take part in the preparation for the reforms and to take part in developments in the army.”
The two organisations say it is worrying that despite the fact that the case against the soldiers is fake, the government still postponed the sitting of the court instead of disbanding the court.

TRC director Tsikoane Peshoane, speaking at a press conference yesterday, said the court “should not be dissolved politically because the next government will reinstate it politically”. “We experienced that with the issue of Mahao. He was appointed politically and the succeeding government removed him politically,” Peshoane said.

“That cost him his life, so it is the action we are trying to avoid because we saw it happening once. We don’t want it to happen twice,” he said.
The CCJP director Booi Mohapi said the composition of the court martial was illegal as some of the presiding officers were people who were implicated in torturing the soldiers suspected of mutiny but were later appointed presiding officers.

Senate Sekotlo

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