Two Lesotho NGOs Stance on Mutiny Case

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TRANSFORMATION RESOURCE CENTRE (TRC) AND CATHOLIC COMMISSION FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE (CCJP)

TRC-CCJP’s stance and contribution on latest developments in Lesotho

Introduction

On 5 October 5 2015, the High Court of Lesotho ordered that the close arrest of 23 soldiers charged with a mutiny plot by the Lesotho Defence Force is unlawful and set it aside. The effect of this is a legal compulsion for their immediate release.

The Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) and Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace (CCJP) have teamed up to address the apparent human rights violations connected to this case, and solicit support from other organisations in Lesotho and South Africa.

In response to the violations perpetrated by the Lesotho Defence Force, TRC and CCJP mobilised a team of lawyers to lead the legal challenges to LDF behaviour towards these detained soldiers; and also mobilised assistance for the families of the detained, exiled and slain soldiers who are also facing human rights violations.

The High Court Case

The legal case that the team initiated was Mareka and 22 Others v the Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force and Others.

In this case, the 23 detainees sought

  1. a review from the High Court to set aside the decision to convene Court Martial
  2. facilitation of their participation in the SADC-initiated Commission of Inquiry, which has been established to investigate the mutiny plot allegations and the killing of the former LDF commander Lt. Gen. Maaparankoe Mahao
  3. their release from detention.

The Verdict and its Importance

The High Court verdict ordered that LDF must release the soldiers on “open arrest”, a form of military bail.

The Court did not, however, grant other relief sought by the applicants including postponing or setting aside the court martial process until the conclusion of the Commission’s proceedings.

The effect of this judgment is that all those 23 soldiers are considered to be in custody and their movements are restricted, but they are allowed to go about their normal business.

This “open arrest” brings immense relief to their families and ensures that they will be protected from the severe torture and abuse that a number of these soldiers have alleged to have suffered in detention. This will also ensure that these men reunite with their loved ones which is a God given right.

It also means these soldiers will be able to cooperate freely with the SADC Commission in determining the mutiny plot allegations and Mahao’s death

TRC-CCJP and partners perceive this judgment as an accomplishment of justice and have valid reason to celebrate.

We must express that we are immensely shocked that despite the court order setting aside close detention of the soldiers on Monday, October 5th, 2015, the soldiers are still in detention and they still attend Court Martial with their feet shackled. This is an inhumane treatment of human persons.

What is Next?

The next stage is that of the SADC Commission of Inquiry. TRC-CCJP mandated the legal team to attend the proceedings of the Commission on daily basis to represent the interests of the detained soldiers and to assist the Commission in finding the truth in its inquiry. The legal team composed of five local lawyers works determinedly at the Commission up to date.

The third stage is that of the Court Martial. Upon foreseeing the possibility of convening of the court, TRC-CCJP and the local team had to strategise on how detainees will be represented in the court and find means of challenging the convening of the same court. The Court Martial, despite the pending judgment in the High Court and the principle of sub judicae, was established on Monday. TRC-CCJP and partners will nevertheless give unwavering support for the accused soldiers and their families.

We therefore invite all Basotho to give this initiative the necessary support to fight against human rights violations and to create an atmosphere fit for human safety and security.

We further appeal to Basotho to participate in assisting the families of the exiled and slain soldiers which can no longer have access to the salaries of their husbands.

How you can help

Financial contributions (to cover the costs of legal suit and other needs of families) can be sent to the following:

  • Standard Lesotho Bank: Account 01400 977 15207 – Account name: Justice and Peace
  • Eocach/Sepache-fono: Transformation Resource Centre (Merchant Code 08504)
  • Vodacom Mpesa: Transformation resource Centre (Merchant mobile number 5098 5069)

Issued and signed in Maseru on 7th October, 2015

For CCJP Booi Mohapi (Secretary-General) 2232 4263

6212 1212

For TRC Tšoeu Petlane (Director) 2231 4463
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