22 September 2017

Lesotho: Bloc Queries Mokhosi Torture Claim

A SOUTHERN African Development Community (SADC) Ministerial Double Troika fact-finding mission to Lesotho has poured cold water on former Defence minister Tšeliso Mokhosi's claims of police torture, saying there was no evidence to back up the allegation.

Mr Mokhosi, who is also Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) deputy leader, was arrested on 28 August this year and charged with the murder of Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng along with four police officers.

The former minister was eventually released on bail and released a statement accusing the police of forcing him to confess to killing PC Khetheng while being interrogated.

Mr Mokhosi also accused the law enforcement agency of torturing him and coercing him to make a false statement before the Magistrates' Court about the circumstances surrounding PC Khetheng's death. Mr Mokhosi has since fled the country citing a plot to assassinate him.

The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) has vehemently denied the allegations, saying the agency does not torture suspects.

LMPS spokesperson, Inspector Mpiti Mopeli, said Mr Mokhosi should have alerted the magistrate of the alleged torture and death threats "if they were true".

The SADC Ministerial Double Troika fact-finding mission was in Lesotho earlier this month after the 5 September 2017 assassination of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo.

It presented its findings last Friday during a one-day SADC Double Troika Summit in Pretoria, South Africa.

The mission queried Mr Mokhosi's claim of being tortured by LMPS members.

"In relation to allegations of torture, and specifically regarding the former Minister of Defence, it was reported that although these isolated incidents of torture cannot be disputed, in general there has been no particular evidence of any allegations of torture by the police, and in fact when appearing before the magistrate, and on release from custody, the former minister did indicate that he was not tortured but had been taken in for interrogation," reads part of the findings.

Members of the mission met with opposition leaders who expressed concern about an "uncertain and tense political atmosphere" prevailing in the country.

Meanwhile, the mission also urged the Double Troika summit to take note of the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) and the Council of NGOs' plea for long-term and sustainable solutions to political and security challenges in Lesotho.

"They also criticized the approach used by SADC, which was seen as a perpetual fact finding mission approach, where at all the time, SADC missions will meet individual groups, without bringing all groups/stakeholders to sit together discuss and device sustainable solutions," reads the mission's report.

"In this regard they emphasised that an effective national dialogue is necessary and requires both internal and external facilitators, who will dedicate adequate time to engage continuously with a broad-spectrum of stakeholders."

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