Prison horror for 11 youth protesters

Prison horror for 11 youth protesters

MASERU-THREE days of horror.
That is how a lawyer who is representing 11 youths who were arrested during last Friday’s protests described their experience in prison cells.
The youths appeared before Magistrate ’Makopano Rantšo charged with participating in an unlawful procession.

Their lawyer, Advocate Sekoala Makara, gave a harrowing account that vividly captured the brutal nature of Lesotho’s prisons.
Of the 11 youths who were arrested, four were women.
Yet even when some of the women had menstrual blood dripping down their skirts, the police remained unmoved, Advocate Makara said.
They could not even allow them to have a bath.
They also had no access to sanitary pads.

Without sanitary pads, the women thought they could make use of toilet paper.
But even that request was shot down, Advocate Makara said.
“They were denied access to either sanitary pads or even toilet paper as the flow was too heavy,” he said.
He told the court that since their arrest on Friday until their appearance in court on Monday, they did not bath at all.

“The police ignored them like they did not exist,” Advocate Makara said.
“One would just imagine someone on periods for more than three days without taking a bath, but police officers showed no interest (to alleviate their plight) even under such circumstances,” he said.
“Even a day cannot pass by for a normal person without taking a bath, what more for someone who is on her periods?”

Advocate Makara said one of the women was a lactating mother who had a baby that needed to be breast-fed.
“She told the police that she had left a new-born baby who needed to be breastfed but they ignored her like she did not exist,” he said.
The youths said they were also assaulted in the cells and were also denied access to medical treatment after they were injured.

Advocate Makara told the court that when his clients arrived at the police station, they were forced to delete pictures and videos that they had taken during the protests.
The police then seized their phones and deleted the images.

“During that process they were not told why they were arrested until they arrived in court and heard from the magistrate when the charge sheet was read to them,” he said.
However, in his response, prosecutor Advocate Lehlohonolo Phooko said there “was nothing shocking” about the way the youths were treated.
“That is a police cell, not a hotel, what were they expecting?” Advocate Phooko said.

“They are not the first ones to be kept in police cells and will not be the last ones, so the treatment they talk about has nothing to do with the court as they did not even bring evidence about the allegations they raised,” he said.
He said the issue of sanitary pads “had to be raised to the government not before court as we have nothing to do with that”.

“These people need to know that this is a court of law, we deal with evidence not allegations,” he said.
He however agreed that the court should remand them on free bail as they are still citizens of Lesotho.

They will appear again before court on December 14 for set down.
The youths were granted free bail by Magistrate Rantšo on Monday.

Itumeleng Khoete

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