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Amnesty International warns Matekane

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Staff Reporter

Amnesty International, an international organisation focused on human rights, has warned prime minister Sam Matekane and his government to act swiftly to ensure accountability for past human rights violations to build a culture of accountability and the rule of law going forward.

“Justice delayed is justice denied. Time is not on his side,” said Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s interim deputy director of East and Southern Africa in a statement released last Friday.

Amnesty International said to mark almost seven months since Matekane took office, it had documented human rights violations committed by police officers, ranging from unlawful killings, torture, and cruel and inhuman degrading treatment of persons in detention.

It said the human rights violations took place in the past five years. It further indicated that it also documented cases where police authorities either neglected or refused to investigate allegations of torture, ill-treatment, and deaths in custody.

The organization called on Matekane and his government to ensure that all allegations of violations by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) are promptly, thoroughly, independently, transparently, and effectively investigated.

“During the previous administration, we saw a spike in the number of human rights violations in Lesotho, including torture and other ill-treatment and deaths of detained persons in police custody under mysterious circumstances,” Chagutah said.

The organization also reminded Matekane that during his inauguration on October 28, last year, he vowed to undertake reforms to prevent and combat corruption and make public service transparent, accountable, and effective.

It said he also committed to developing and implementing a crime-fighting strategy within his first 15 days in office.

“Since then, there has been a worrying rise in gun violence and targeted killings in the country. Following the shooting and killing of local radio journalist, Ralikonelo Joki, on 14 May, the government implemented a nationwide curfew between 10:00 pm and 4:00 am local time on 16 May,” the statement read.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) this week said Joki, the host of a show called ‘Hlokoana-La-Tsela on Tšenolo FM, a privately-owned radio station in Maseru, was exiting the radio station in his car at around 10:00 pm on May 14 when a volley of shots rang out.

“The 44-year-old journalist was found dead seconds later with at least six bullet wounds in his body and another in his head,” RSF said.

It also mentioned that it was told that the shots were fired from both sides of the car and that their precision suggested that the killing was carefully planned.

Now Amnesty International says the government is yet to hold anyone accountable for the killing of Kopano Francis Mokutoane – a National University of Lesotho (NUL) student who dies on June 16, 2022, following a shooting by members of the LMPS during students’ protests.

It also mentions human rights lawyer, advocate Napo Mafaesa, who was allegedly tortured and severely beaten by police after he was arrested and accused of concealing a gun belonging to a client, a claim Mafaesa denied.

It says in another case of torture, a 46-year-old ‘Mateboho Matekane from Ha Pita in Maseru was subjected to torture at Lithoteng Police Station in November 2021 by three police officers after being accused of stealing money from the community’s savings club, an accusation she denied.

“The government must immediately take effective measures to respect human rights. The Prime Minister and his government must recommit to his plan to prioritise human rights and ensure accountability for violations,” Chagutah said.

“Prime Minister Matekane must seize this chance to rewrite Lesotho’s human rights history,” he added.

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