THE Southern African Litigation Centre (Salc) and Amnesty International on Friday called for the release of 23 soldiers detained in Lesotho since May last year, “on charges of mutiny or failure to suppress a mutiny”.
The human rights groups also want the court martials against the 23 — who “are accused of plotting to kill senior members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF)” — dropped and for them to be granted amnesty from criminal prosecution‚
The mutiny‚ which followed election violence‚ led to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa intervening on behalf to the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).
A Salc statement said a “Sadc commission of inquiry report found that there were divisions within the LDF and anomalies relating to the charges of mutiny”.
That report — which was formally tabled in the Lesotho Parliament on Monday — “found that there was no conclusive evidence of a mutiny plot and that some officers had been tortured into implicating other officers in the alleged plot”‚ Salc said.
“The report further found that Brig Maaparankoe Mahao‚ who had allegedly been shot and killed in the course of arrest by the LDF also on mutiny plot allegations‚ had actually been murdered.
“It further found that there were efforts at the hospital and within the LDF to cover-up the circumstances surrounding his death,” Salc said. “The report recommended that officers suspected of involvement in the killing of Brig Mahao be immediately suspended and that criminal proceedings against these officers be instituted on an urgent basis.”
Concern was raised over Lesotho’s prime minister‚ who “effected the deletion of the names of certain LDF members who were implicated in human rights violations in the report‚ including torture and the killing of Brig Mahao,” Salc said.
“The prime minister’s removal of names relating to these events unfortunately undermines the purpose of the commission itself.”