Amnesty International Wednesday said Lesotho must address police brutality, extrajudicial killings and torture ahead of the nation’s October 7 elections. The organization has collected evidence of many instances of torture at the hands of law enforcement and hopes candidates will make human rights a priority before and after the upcoming vote.
This January, the Lesotho Mounted Police Service arrested human rights lawyer Napo Mafaesa on suspicions that he concealed a gun belonging to a client and tortured him for hours to extract a confession. In May, police officers and personnel from the Lesotho Defense Forces beat and tortured 19 men and 16 women after they protested power cuts in Liseleng. A single law firm in Maseru is currently handling 58 cases of police brutality dating as far back as 2018.
A 2021 United Nations report outlined key goals for Lesotho to reach by 2023, including that government entities would “uphold good Governance, rule of law and human rights” and all people would have “improved access to justice and participating in social and political decision making processes in a peaceful environment.”
According to Amnesty International, however, authorities have not reached this goal. Amnesty’s Director for East and Southern Africa Muleya Mwananyanda described the climate, saying:
It is the duty of the police to protect the public, yet Lesotho’s track record of police brutality shows that the public have much to fear from their law enforcement officers. It is time for the Lesotho authorities to take a zero-tolerance attitude to unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment by their security forces and ensure that those suspected to be responsible are held to account. Victims must be provided with access to justice and effective remedies.
A Commonwealth team lead by the former President of Seychelles Danny Faure will travel to Lesotho to observe the October elections and report any issues of credibility to the Commonwealth and the government of Lesotho.