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Ombudsman wants 114 LCS officers prosecuted 

by Lesotho Times
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…asks police to complete investigations in six months 

Mathatisi Sebusi 

OMBUDSMAN Tlotliso Polaki wants 114 Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) officers investigated and prosecuted for the brutal assaults of 299 inmates and another’s death in December last year. 

The assaults and death took place on the night of 21 December 2023 following a prison break by six felons. 

The six escapees would later be re-arrested, only for one to die in LCS custody.  The Ombudsman has now blamed LCS officers for the death. 

Adv Polaki told the media this week that she wants the 114 LCS recruit officers to be held accountable for the assaults and murder. 

She said, after her own probe, she had urged the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to investigate the assaults and prosecute all those responsible. 

Adv Polaki released her report at the presser entitled: An Own Initiative Investigation Report into Allegations of Torture And Excessive Use Of Force On Inmates At The Maseru Central Correctional Institution On 22 December 2023: “No Justification For The Unjustifiable”. 

On the face of the report Adv Polaki declares in italics, “It might be appealing for some to dismiss inmates who are victims of excessive use of force as deserving of their fate; to assume the worst of them and the best of correctional officers. But it is important to remember that inmates, regardless of why they are confined, are human beings deserving of respect, dignity, and humane treatment. They all individually have their own personal stories to tell…” 

About 300 inmates including six Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members awaiting trial for various crimes, in the maximum-security wing of the Maseru Central Correctional Institution (MCCI), were heavily assaulted by LCS officers during that fateful night. 

According to the Ombudsman, the death of an inmate, Bokang Tsoako, one of the six escapees, resulted from torture by LCS officers. 

Tsoako died at the institution following his re-arrest on December 22. 

Another inmate, Tlotliso Bereng, was also brutally assaulted. Bereng is reported to be now wheelchair bound and doctors have confirmed that he will not be able to walk again. 

The Ombudsman’s investigation into the torture and death of the inmate came amid a national outcry against the brutality of the LCS officers. 

Advocate Polaki said her office had been compelled to probe what had transpired. 

She said her investigations had confirmed the ‘prison break’ by the six. 

She said the prison break happened a day before the 114 LCS recruits were due to conduct a routine search of the prison.  They were then asked to assist in the search of the escapees. 

Others went out to chase after the escapees while others interrogated the remaining inmates. It was during that process that the LCS recruits are alleged to have severely assaulted inmates to try and extract information about how everything had happened. 

Even though the 114 were recruits, Adv Polaki said they had worked for the LCS for many years due to the organisation’s internal procedural policies. They had been asked to conduct the routine search due to staff shortages. 

About 650 inmates were incarcerated at MCCI at the time. About 300 had been beaten up. 

Most of the beatings occurred in areas without video surveillance cameras. 

“It was established without a doubt that inmates were beaten by officers unprovoked….. 

“The evidence pointed to a well-orchestrated plan to torture and ill-treat inmates, in particular, it was mainly targeted at members of the LDF who remain incarcerated to date but somehow affected all other inmates in different cells,” reads Adv Polaki’s report. 

Most injured inmates were denied medical care after the assaults. 

Correctional officers and police were in a special position of power over inmates. The latter could do nothing to protect themselves against assaults perpetrated by those entrusted to protect them, she said. 

If officers expected inmates to abide by the law and act in a civilized manner, she added, they should themselves act as role models because generally, violence by correctional officers begets violence from the inmates. 

“Sadly, in majority of cases, inmates are the least likely to be believed when they allege that there is maltreatment against them within correctional facilities. 

“The assaults carried on by LCS officers over inmates are serious crimes which are not necessarily only against the inmates themselves but against the justice system as a whole,” Adv Polaki said. 

“We do expect, as the public, a high standard of care and conduct on their part and any form of abuse and excessive force should not be tolerated anyhow. We should never lose sight of the fact that inmates who remain incarcerated are vulnerable and defenceless and should be protected from violence and excessive use of force at all times. 

“Resort to violence is, apart from being a criminal offence, also not in keeping with respect for human rights and modern internal trends on rehabilitating offenders. Instead, it breeds resentment and resistance on the part of the victim inmates. It turns the otherwise reformable material into hardened criminals.” 

Adv Polaki has thus made recommendations which she said must be implemented within six months. 

They include the need for the LMPS to investigate the death of the deceased Tsoako and prosecute all responsible. 

LCS Commissioner, Mating Nkakala, must also institute disciplinary action and remove from office those responsible for the death and injuries of inmates. 

Advocate Polaki further recommended that DPP, Hlalefang Motinyane take legal action against LCS officers including Motiki Mohale, Matete Mahao, Lehlohonolo Ralebese, Khosi Hlalele, Lehlohonolo Thetso, Lehlohonolo Posholi, Sepiriti Malefane and Lehlohonolo Moabi, for “their attempt to give false testimony or information, and wilfully withholding and concealing information in respect of material aspects of the investigation”, which is a violation of section 20 (b) of the Ombudsman Act. 

Other names of LCS officers whom Adv Polaki recommended that they be investigated and prosecuted are: Motiki Mohale, Kaana Mosothoana, Notṧi Tumelo Sekokotoana, Thabo Mohale, Tumelo Makhunoane, Lehlohonolo Moabi, Tumelo Thabane, Fubuzana, Mathai, Koloi, Sepiriti Malefane, Thabiso Jane, Tsietsi Tsietsi, Thetso, Mofokeng, Khele, Potsane Potsane, Mofakadolo and one ‘Masenyetse (nicknamed Kiss Kiss). 

Recruits who searched and beat inmates in Block A are: Thetso, Lehlohonolo Posholi, Ntṧekhe, Lereko Lephoi, Sello Matube, Monyane Motsoalisa, Tṧepo Mokhethi, Lekhoko, Makintane, Nkeo Mohlakola, Thabo Lebone, Tsepo Borotho, Thabiso Jane and Mosola. 

In Block C, there were: Sepiriti Malefane, Tumelo Thabane, Maese Ramashamole, Mphutlane Ntaisane, Moleleki, Thabiso Jane, Tsietsi Tsietsi, Seeiso Makotoko, Sekokotoana, Masilo Mokhele, Thabo Seakhoa, Teboho Mafemekoane, Sello Matube and Letsielo Makhele. 

Block B was searched by: Molibeli Molibetsane, Mphutlane Ntai, Molaoa Mothabeng, Khosi Hlalele, Potsane Potsane, Lehlohonolo Potsanyane, Thabang Moleleki, Tumelo Makhunoane, Mahooaneng Matjama, Khutlang Telite, Tsepo Nthafa, Matete Mahao, Tsepo Mokhethi, Poloko Mokobocho and Mamasieane. 

Block D search party was by: Kaana Mosothoana, Letlatsa Mokhothotso, Masilo Mokhele, Mosebekoa, Kopano Tseka, Thabiso Jane, Tseliso Mochaba, Thabang Moleleki, Samuel Sekhale, Sila, Khutso, Retselisitsoe Felleng, Seapa Matsoso, Limpho Makhetha, Thabo Mohale, Katleho Fako, Tsietsi Tsietsi, Fukuzana, Molelle, Molatelle, Paseka Tseliso Mochaba, Notsi, Motiki Mohale, Lehlohonolo Potsanyane, Thabang Moleleki, Samuel Sekhale Kopano Silase, Sepiriti Malefane, Tumelo Thabane, Maese Ramashamole, Mphutlane Ntaitsana, Moleleki, Thabiso Jane, Tsietsi Tsietsi, Seeiso Makotoko, Sekokotoana, Masilo Mokhele, Thabo Seakhoa, Teboho Mafemekoane, Sello Matube, Monyane Motsoalisa, Tsepo Mokhethi, Lekhoko, Paseka Mosebekoa, Lereko Lephoi, Teboho Mafemekoane, Paseka Mochaba, Sehloho and Tseliso Mochaba. 

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