A local human rights body, the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), has applauded the High Court for jailing two police officers who murdered Lesotho Electricity Company auditor, Thibello Nteso.
The non-governmental organisation also hailed the police for conducting "effective investigations" into Mr Nteso's 6 February 2017 murder. The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was also praised for its "effective prosecution" of the case which helped secure the police officers' conviction and sentencing to 20 years each in prison.
The TRC however said despite the sterling work of the police and prosecution, the government still had a long way to go towards capacitating the judiciary to improve the criminal justice system.
The TRC spoke in the wake of Justice Moreki Mokhesi's 13 January 2021 decision to sentence Police Constables (PCs) Moeketsi Dlamini and Monaheng 'Musi to 20 years imprisonment each for murdering Mr Nteso.
Justice Mokhesi had on 10 December 2020 found the duo guilty of murdering Mr Nteso and damaging his vehicle.
In sentencing them, Justice Mokhesi said they had "callously" murdered Mr Nteso when he was not even a threat to them. His only crime was ignoring the police officers' unlawful orders for him not to access his car, the judge said.
In a statement yesterday, the TRC welcomed Justice Mokhesi's ruling saying justice had been done in a case involving the police officers.
"TRC firmly stands against the culture of violence and impunity where state officials are accused of committing atrocities and violating the fundamental human rights," the TRC said in its statement.
"TRC welcomes Justice Mokhesi's verdict in the Nteso murder case and applauds the decision as a significant step towards breaking the ignoble culture of impunity and non-accountability of state officials, particularly the police.
"TRC notes that the decision reaffirms the primacy of the rule of law, acts as an assurance that no one is above the law and enforces respect for human rights. Stopping killings by state officials entrusted to protect lives, is the most significant obligation of the state arising from the duty to respect the right to life. Handing down the judgement, His Lordship Mokhesi noted that as police officers, the accused were expected to act with self-restraint and not impulsively and irrationally.
"TRC is confident that the verdict is a reminder that Lesotho has a constitution that solemnly protects and guarantees the right to life. It is also a reminder that Lesotho has obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights of 1981 to take measures to protect human lives and where there is a breach, the law has to take its course in an effort to find redress."
While applauding the police and the DPP for their sterling work which contributed to the conviction of the killer police officers, the TRC however, urged them to be as efficient in investigating and prosecuting similar cases involving police officers.
"TRC also applauds the prosecution by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the effective investigations carried by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS). However, TRC highly encourages the LMPS and the office of the DPP to accelerate other pending cases of a similar nature.
"TRC calls upon the government to improve the efficiency of the judiciary to improve the performance of the criminal justice system. The prosecution must be capacitated to ensure speedy trials in all murder and torture cases pending before the courts.
"All police officers implicated in tortures and killings of civilians must be prosecuted as happened in the case of Police Constables Moeketsi Dlamini and Monaheng 'Musi. The government must also ensure the independence and efficacy of the Police Complaints Authority to handle complaints from civilians against police officers violating human rights. The authority's decision must be binding on the government."
The TRC also called on the government to speedily compensate victims, survivors and affected families of human rights violations perpetrated by government agents.