ADVOCATE Khotso Nthontho—who is representing the wives of three soldiers allegedly abducted by the army authorities—yesterday told the High Court that the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) “ flouted” regulations in the case of the “detained” soldiers.
Both the lawyer and judge, Justice Semapo Peete agreed to “consolidate” the three cases because according to Advocate Nthontho, “the trend was becoming a recurring phenomenon now.”
Advocate Nthontho submitted before the court in his heads of argument that the army’s approach to the detention process was in contravention of LDF laws and the Lesotho Constitution, citing the LDF Act of 1996 section 87 (1) and (2), which pertains to the arrest of army personnel
The LDF Commander, Minister of Defence, Director of Military Intelligence, Minister of Justice, Law and Constitutional Affairs as well as the Attorney General are the respondents in the case
Matsetang Makara, Hape Koali and ‘Matlhokomelo Jobo made an urgent application in the High Court seeking the immediate release of their kidnapped husbands, Lance Corporals Jane Makara, Simon Koali and Nehemiah Jobo.
Advocate Nthontho argued the three arrests were, “ wrongful, and the defense should prove to us that they were in strict provisions of the law.”
He added: “Our submission is that a lawful remand warrant is lacking. There are no remand warrants attached in the answering affidavit, as according to the law and procedures.”
He further argued that the soldiers had the right to hear their charge in 24 hours, but there was “non-compliance of the provisions of the law.”
“We take the example of Jobo, who disappeared on 14 May. And by 15 May, he had not been told the Act he had broken.”
“And on 22 May, when they did send the answering affidavit, they should have attached the arrest warrants and reports.
“However, we only received the charge sheet on 23 May at 10:04. We are only questioning the legality of the arrest and detention. Soldiers are humans and they should be accorded the same rights as their fellow citizens.
“They argue that they are held in custody due to pending investigations and for security reasons. But we should follow international standards and norms, that you arrest someone and you must give charge to that person.”
The defense is being represented by Advocate Ramafikeng Moshoeshoe.
Judge Peete, questioned the Counsel, “is it whether internal remedies within LDF, should be followed, to rectify the position.”
“But, I will make them account fully, with specific requirements under regulations of the military.”
The case continues today.