OP-EDs

OP-ED: CRIMINALISE TORTURE AND END CULTURE OF IMPUNITY

19 Years of Lesotho’s ratification of the United Nations Convention against torture; Where are we now?

By Lepeli Moeketsi

The Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) wishes to bring to attention of the government of Lesotho and Basotho that June 26 2019, marked the 32nd anniversary of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The Convention defines torture as any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for purposes of obtaining a confession, punishment, intimidation, coercion or discrimination.

Lesotho has ratified the Convention Against Torture on 12th November 2001 and was due to submit initial report on the 11th December 2002. Lesotho has failed to submit the initial report overdue in 2002 until present.

State Parties to the Convention are required to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial and other measures to prevent torture, including the regular monitoring of persons in custody.

The Convention requires that the legal system be accessible to victims of torture so that they obtain redress, compensation and rehabilitation. Finally, the Convention provides an oversight system which requires States to report on the measures they have taken to prevent torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Lesotho has ratified the CAT, however, the country does not fulfil any of its obligations under the Convention. The Constitution of Lesotho prohibits torture but there is no specific legislation on torture or policy put in place to prevent torture and also regular monitoring of persons in custody.

Civil Society Organisations have to seek permission from the government to monitor places of detention and persons therein. It remains a sole discretion of either the minister in charge or the commissioner to grant or decline such request.

This shows lack of commitment by the government of Lesotho to prevent acts of torture and cruel treatment committed by its officials.

State Parties to the Convention are required to ensure that acts of torture are criminalised and ensure that acts of torture are investigated and punished. From February 2018 until present, TRC received and continues to receive credible reports of police officers subjecting civilians to torture, cruel and degrading treatment during police operations.

These reports include police raiding villages torturing and killing villagers and other individual cases of the same kind. The latest village raid being that of the 28th February 2019 in Bokhoasa, Manemaneng in Thaba-Tseka district where all village men with an exception of elderly men, were subjected to torture.

This ferocious police behaviour was preceded by that of 27th December 2018 where around 70 police officers raided the Kao village where all men including elderly as well as some women were subjected torture and inhuman treatment by the Botha-Buthe police.

More than 64 men were severely injured while one, Poshoane Moloi, died as a result of being tortured by chisels, stones, fighting sticks and gun butts. Similar event happened in the same village in February 2018 where police shot members of the community protesting over socio-economic rights violations they were subjected to by the government of Lesotho and the Storm Mountain Diamonds.

Protesters were shot at and one villager, Terene Pitae, died as a result. No police officer had been prosecuted nor disciplinary measures taken against them over these tortures and brutal killings of civilians.

There is no provision by government for redress and rehabilitation to the victims of torture. Only victims with financial muscle sometimes get redress from the courts claiming damages and compensation from the government.

Despite ratifying the Convention Against Torture in 2001, Lesotho has not criminalised torture. Angola has only signed the Convention and moved on to criminalise torture in its Penal Code in 2019.

This followed other similar steps in the region, for example Eswatini, criminalised torture by officials in its Police Service Act of 2018 and Correctional Services Act of 2017, and Uganda and South Africa created dedicated laws aimed at preventing and combatting torture in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

 

TRC calls on all arms of Lesotho government to:

  • Actively prevent torture and punish those who perpetrate torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment;
  • Carry out its commitment to implement laws which criminalise acts of torture;
  • Remove from public office those persons who have carried out, facilitated or condoned acts of torture and cruelty under the present and former government; and
  • Ensure the rule of law and protect and promote the rights of all Basotho to express their views and opinions freely.
  • Amend Human Rights Commission Act of 2016 in line with the Paris Principles and ensure its urgent establishment.
  • Establish independent inquiry into allegations of torture as a matter of urgency to afford victims redress.
  • Rehabilitation policy must be put in place for all victims of torture by the government. NW

Lepeli Moeketsi is a Human Rights Officer at the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC)

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