Pressure mounts on Molibeli to act against police brutality

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’Marafaele Mohloboli

GOVERNMENT officials and victims have joined the growing local and international calls for Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli to act against rogue police officers who have been fingered in acts of brutality against civilians.

In the latest reports of police brutality, rogue officers allegedly tortured 49 year-old Nqosa Mahao of Ha Mabote, Maseru and 31 year-old Kabelo Ratia of Nazareth in the Maseru district. Mr Mahao was abducted from his Mabote home on 18 July on suspicion of hiding firearms on behalf of some rogue soldiers.

While several people have come forward with accusations, it is the alleged torture of Mr Ratia which has grabbed the headlines.

In one of the worst accusations of sordid and sadistic behaviour leveled against the police, Mr Ratia alleges that he was tortured to the point where he soiled himself and was made to eat his own faeces.

Mr Ratia was arrested last Tuesday for allegedly stealing M30 000 from a local businessman. During his detention Mr Ratia was allegedly subjected to horrendous torture and forced to implicate others including one Thabo May in the alleged theft of the businessman’s money. Mr May is still in hospital battling to recover from the injuries inflicted on him.

Mr Ratia and other suspects did not take their alleged torture lying down and their lawyer, Advocate Mafaesa, of Zwelakhe Mda Chambers has since written to Commissioner Molibeli demanding action against the rogue officers. Adv Mafaesa threatened to sue the officers as well as Commissioner Molibeli in the event that the latter did not act against the rogue officers.

“We act on the instructions of Kabelo Ratia, Thabiso May, Thato Liau, Gerard Leshapa and Thabo May,” Adv Mafaesa states in his 18 July 2019 letter to Commissioner Molibeli.

“Our clients instruct us that they were tortured by the following officers: Police Constable (PC) Maanela, PC Lelaka, PC Ts’ iame, PC Morake and three other officers whose particulars are unknown to our clients. They (police officers) subjected our clients to inhuman and degrading treatment, which in terms of the Lesotho laws and international norms, amount to crimes against humanity.”

Adv Mafaesa states that fellow police officers at Matela Police Station refused to allow the torture victims to press charges against their alleged torturers and therefore Commissioner Molibeli should intervene and ensure the charges are filed.

“In the event of your failure to act, our instructions are to approach the Constitutional Court on an urgent basis for appropriate relief. In that regard damages and punitive costs will be sought against you and the said rogue police officers in your personal and official capacities,” Adv Mafaesa states.

Commissioner Molibeli referred all questions to Police Spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli when the Lesotho Times approached him for comment this week.

On his part, Supt Mopeli said, “Commissioner Molibeli has not received any letter from Adv Mda’s chambers and the only reason why he summoned Ratia this week was to hear him out as we didn’t have any case before the police regarding his alleged torture.

“The commissioner did not send police officers to torture suspects and these officers risk an early exit (from the police force) due to their wrongdoing,” Supt Mopeli said.

Meanwhile Justice and Correctional Services minister Mokhele Moletsane has condemned “in the strongest terms, the torture of citizens by our police officers whose primary mandate is to protect the same citizens”.

“We are totally against the infringement of citizens’ human rights. The police must come up with clear policies on how to deal with suspects instead of subjecting them to torture,” added Mr Moletsane.

On his part, Attorney General, Advocate Haae Phoofolo, said the government was “against the inhumane and degrading treatment which some of the suspects are subjected to while being investigated by police”.

“All police officers who have been implicated in incidents of torture should be answerable for their actions. The degradation of the suspect who was made to eat his own faeces should be thoroughly investigated with a view to acting against the officers involved. Rogue police officers should toe the line. This is totally unacceptable, it’s inhumane and degrading,” said Adv Phoofolo.

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