Government  hits out at critics

Government hits out at critics

MASERU – THE government has hit back at international organisations that criticised the country over alleged human rights violations and eroding the independence of the judiciary.
In the strongly worded letter statement, the Government Secretary’s Office on Tuesday said it was getting increasingly worried by the “unfounded” statements based on “unverified, yet disparaging claims” about Lesotho.

The government seems to have been rattled by the latest criticism from some globally respected organisations such as Amnesty International and the Commonwealth Magistrates and Jurists Association (CMJA), which rapped Lesotho over the suspension of the chief justice. “While this is the second time that the CMJA callously proceeds this way in a short space of four months, following their equally misinformed and misled public statement on this subject in early May 2018, in the past the Amnesty International would not issue an unverified and arguably partisan and subjective statement,” read the letter by the Government Secretary’s Office.

The government said organisations should conduct thorough research before issuing statements criticising Lesotho.
“Verified content used to become evidence used in Amnesty International’s campaigning for justice. This had the effect of retaining the well- researched the well- earned dignity of this esteemed organisation,” the letter reads.

The government slammed the two organisations for suggesting that the suspension of Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara was in the violation of the rule of law and undermined judicial independence.
The two organisations, charged the government, give the impression that Lesotho should not take constitutional measures to discipline Justice Majara, adding that “judicial independence is inextricably tied to the notion of judicial accountability.”

The government claimed in its letter, that the international organisations failed to engage authorities or their attorneys on the subject prior to the publication of the damning statements.
The suspension of Justice Majara was neither a punishment nor a verdict of misconduct, said the government.
“It is clearly for the judicial tribunal to investigate the issues surrounding her fitness to hold office and not the government,” the letter says.

The government said the King’s decision to suspend Justice Majara was aimed at upholding the United Nations basic principles on the independence of the judiciary.
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has been stung by criticism from international organisations over its handling of the chief justice’s case.
Amnesty International’s statement said “the suspension of Majara by King Letsie III is considered to be politically motivated by civil society organisations in the country”.
“The suspension of Majara comes after persistent attacks on the judiciary, the office of the chief justice, the minister of justice, Attorney General and the Lesotho Law Society, by the authorities,” the statement said.

Amnesty International said it is “concerned that the actions set a deeply worrying precedent in Lesotho. An independent judiciary is important to ensure a functioning administration of justice for everyone, and respect for human rights”. The suspension of the Chief Justice is a grave threat to judicial independence in Lesotho, it said.

“The authorities must show restraint and respect human rights and the rule of law by immediately lifting Majara’s suspension and reinstating her as Chief Justice. We urge the authorities to respect Lesotho’s international, regional and national obligations relating to the independence and security of tenure of judges.”
In May the Southern African Chief Justices Forum (SACJF) called on the government to uphold the rule of law and handle Justice Majara’s matter “in accordance with the principles of natural justice and due process”

In the same month there was also criticism from the Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA), the Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA) and CMJA.
“Any measure on the part of the Executive which is capable of being seen as eroding the independence and impartiality of the judiciary is a matter of serious concern and will erode public confidence in the legal system as a whole,” the organisations said in a joint statement.

Staff reporter

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