PS admits human rights violations

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Moorosi Tsiane

THE Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Defence and National Security, Tšeliso Mokoko, has admitted that members of the security agencies commit human rights violations in the course of executing their duties.

Mr Mokoko said it was therefore important for the security agencies to undergo training programmes to capacitate them to uphold the rights of civilians.

He said this in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week on the sidelines of a four-day training workshop for 50 senior officers drawn from the Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS), Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) and National Security Services (NSS).

The workshop, which began in Maseru on Monday and ends today, was facilitated by the United Nations Human Rights Officer, Rebaone Ferguson, and the SADC Oversight Committee’s Permanent Member in Maseru, Colonel Webster Simwanda. It is being held under the Reforms Roadmap and the Lesotho National Dialogue and Stabilisation Project (LNDSP).

Lesotho is in the process of implementing constitutional, security sector, media, governance and judicial reforms that were recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2016.

Mr Mokoko said one of the reasons for holding the workshop was the public outcry over alleged human rights violations by members of the security agencies in the execution of their duties.

“One of the reasons for holding this workshop was the outcry that our security agencies have been involved in the violation of human rights so their trainers in this workshop will make them aware of how they can safeguard human rights,” Mr Mokoko said.

“They (security agencies) commit the (human rights) violations during the course of their work and so we want to help them to appreciate that they perform their duties in a professional manner, knowing that they are dealing with human beings who have rights which must be respected.

“We hope that after this series of workshops which will run until November this year, the issues of brutality and human rights violations by the security agencies will be yesterday’s news.”

Mr Mokoko joins Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and other senior government officials who have admitted that there have been cases of human rights violations by members of the security agencies especially the police.

Last November, the premier reacted to the allegations of police brutality by ordering the Minister of Police, ‘Mampho Mokhele, and the Commissioner of Police, Holomo Molibeli, to “do the right thing” by investigating the deaths of suspects in police custody.

Dr Thabane said this in the wake of the October 2018 pledge by the government to investigate the deaths of suspects at the hands of the police.

In the National Reforms Declaration signed with the opposition last October, the government undertook to “investigate and report to the coalition of opposition parties in due course” the circumstances surrounding the deaths of several people in police custody.

Foreign Affairs and International Affairs Minister Lesego Makgothi has also said the government was not deaf to the public outcry over the alleged police brutality and it would soon conduct inquests into the civilian deaths and thereafter deal with the “rogue elements within our police service”.

Meanwhile, the UNDP Resident Representative, Christy Ahenkora, who spoke at the official opening of this week’s workshop, said they were counting on the participants to pass on the knowledge they would acquire to their subordinates.

“This programme is meant to capacitate the security sector and it is expected to run until November this year. It is a training of trainers’ session and we are counting on you to pass this knowledge by training your colleagues.

“A desire to have a transformed security sector kept coming up in the debates in the SADC communiques and other internal conversations. The National Reforms Road Map also views security sector reforms as a key area and this is why we have decided to hold this workshop.

“In a dialogue held in November last year, there was a recommendation that security agencies must be provided with the relevant trainings in the observance of human rights, on the code of conduct and ethics. That is why we are here today.

“It is in the quest to have a security sector that will not only protect and ensure stability in Lesotho but also be sterling and perform in line with global ethics. We have put together a number of training programmes that will run until November. Over the next few days you will be engaging in several critical areas of your work on human rights and arrests, human rights and detention as well as human rights and the use of force and accountability.

“The fact that you come from four security agencies emphasises the need for collaboration and coordination. Sometimes conversations around these issues (of human rights) may be difficult but if you don’t clean the sores, they will never heal. Observing human rights is a legal and ethical imperative and it is also a practical requirement for the security sector so that they can reap the benefits that advance their objectives. This will help build a security sector that doesn’t need to use fear and coercion in its work but honour, professionalism and legality.

“Human rights should be seen as the reason for your operations and you should be the first to protect human rights.  People may end up as vigilantes and take the law into their own hands once they feel security agencies are not doing their work properly,” she said.

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