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Amnesty International Report 1996 - Lesotho

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1996
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1996 - Lesotho, 1 January 1996, available at: [accessed 14 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
At least 15 people who were detained briefly appeared to be prisoners of conscience and other detainees were held incommunicado and without charge or trial for periods of up to several months. There were allegations of ill-treatment and at least one prisoner died in police custody in suspicious circumstances. At least 20 people were injured when police opened fire on a peaceful crowd of factory workers. One prisoner was executed.

There was continuing political tension between the civilian government and the security forces, over whom the government failed to exert control. Government officials and members of their staff as well as members of parliament were among those arbitrarily detained and in some cases ill-treated. There were tensions within the security forces themselves, as evidenced by the unlawful detention by junior officers of the National Security Service (NSS) of their own commanders in March, and by an armed confrontation inside Maseru Central police station in September which reportedly left three police officers dead.

King Moshoeshoe ii was restored to the throne in January in accordance with an internationally brokered agreement signed in September 1994 which had returned the ousted government of Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle to power (see Amnesty International Report 1995). A "national dialogue" conference intended to reduce political tension, also provided for in the 1994 agreement, was held in September. The participants, from the government, the security forces and civil society, made recommendations to facilitate more effective dialogue in the future.

At least 15 people who were detained briefly appeared to be prisoners of conscience. Thabang Khauoe, President of the Law Society, was detained in March and interrogated by the police after he initiated a court action to challenge the constitutionality of the King's reinstatement. He was beaten and threatened with death before being released the following day. He was later reportedly threatened again by one of his interrogators. Fourteen other possible prisoners of conscience were detained in Maputsoe in April after being involved in a labour dispute and were held overnight in police custody. They too were ill-treated. They were initially charged with defying a court order to vacate factory premises but the charges were later dropped. Before detaining the 14, police fired on a peaceful crowd of factory workers as they were dispersing and injured at least 20 people with birdshot pellets. There was no official inquiry into the incident.

At least six officials and members of parliament were detained by the NSS, apparently unlawfully and without government authorization. They included the commanding officer and another senior NSS officer, held in March, both of whom were released when the government refused to remove them from office, as well as a local official of the ruling Basotholand Congress Party and a former government minister, Monyane Moleleki, both of whom were held for short periods. In May, two members of parliament were detained, one of whom was reported to have suffered injuries as a result of ill-treatment.

Some 15 other people were reportedly held in incommunicado detention by the NSS at the time of an Amnesty International visit to Lesotho in June. They were said to be held in connection with the discovery of arms caches found in the Maseru and Leribe districts. The legal basis for their imprisonment was unclear and some detainees were reported to have been ill-treated. Amnesty International was allowed access to four of the detainees, but not to four others it had asked to see. Subsequently, several of the 15 were released without charge. Others were charged and in some cases convicted of unlawfully possessing firearms. These were reportedly denied access to legal counsel while in detention and on trial. Other cases had not been completed by the end of the year.

Criminal suspects were also reportedly ill-treated and at least one detainee died in police custody in suspicious circumstances. Thabo Lefosa died in June hours after he was arrested by police at gunpoint for "routine investigations" and taken for interrogation. The findings of an autopsy believed to have been carried out were not known to Amnesty International. There had been no inquest by the end of the year.

Those responsible for past abuses, including the killing of Deputy Prime Minister Selometsi Baholo in April 1994 and shootings of demonstrators in August 1994 (see Amnesty International Report 1995), were not brought to justice.

One prisoner convicted of murder in 1990, Veddie Nkosi, was executed in November. Only hours before the execution he told a minister of religion that his true identity was Edward Donald Nduba, from Zambia. A soldier sentenced to death in 1991 for the murders of two government ministers and their wives (see Amnesty International Report 1991) had his sentence commuted to a term of imprisonment. There were no reports of new death sentences.

Amnesty International was concerned about the short-term detention of possible prisoners of conscience, the holding of detainees incommunicado, allegations of ill-treatment of detainees, the death penalty and the continuing climate of impunity among the security forces.

In June an Amnesty International delegation visited Lesotho to investigate human rights abuses and discuss these concerns with the authorities. The delegation met the Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Law and Constitutional Affairs, and the Minister of Home Affairs, as well as police and other officials, local human rights organizations and victims of human rights abuses and their relatives. In September the organization wrote to these Ministers and to senior police officials summarizing its concerns and making urgent recommendations, and appealed publicly to the government and security forces to cooperate in ensuring full respect for human rights. There had been no response to those letters by the end of the year. In November Amnesty International appealed unsuccessfully for the commutation of the death sentence imposed on the prisoner known as Veddie Nkosi.

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