TWENTY-THREE RISK UNFAIR TRIAL AND DEATH PENALTY
Twenty-three members of the Lesotho army face a court martial on mutiny charges. Twenty-one have been in custody since May and in solitary confinement for over a month. There are concerns that evidence against them was obtained through torture and that they will not receive a fair trial. If found guilty, they face the death penalty.
The head of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao, was dismissed from the army in May after months of political instability. Shortly afterwards, approximately 50 soldiers perceived to be loyal to him were arrested. Lawyers representing their families brought legal applications demanding that the detainees be produced in court.
During court proceedings, many of the soldiers alleged that they had been tortured and ill-treated. Over half of them were later released with 23 remaining in custody, charged with mutiny. Some of the released soldiers have become ‘accomplice witnesses’, giving evidence against the 23 accused. It is believed that their testimonies were obtained through torture whilst they were in detention.
The soldiers have been held at Maseru Maximum Security Prison since May. Two have been released on bail in the last three months. All 23 are charged with mutiny and face a court martial. If convicted, they could be sentenced to death.
They appeared before a court martial on 5 October, but proceedings were suspended. Twenty-one remain detained and since mid-October have been in solitary confinement. Prolonged solitary confinement (in excess of 15 consecutive days) amounts to torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. If they are permitted consultation with their lawyers, these meetings are only allowed for 20 minutes at a time and are not private. There is serious concern for their emotional and physical well-being.
The soldiers challenged their detention and the composition of the court martial in the Maseru High Court. On 5 October, the High Court declared the manner of their continued detention unlawful and ordered their release on “open arrest”, a form of bail. The LDF failed to comply the court order. The lawyers representing the detainees have also been subjected to repeated intimidation and harassment, including death threats.
The court martial is expected to resume its work on 1 December. Given the manner in which the panel was convened and the treatment of the detainees and their legal team to date, there are concerns that they will not receive a fair trial.
Water and Sanitation as a Human Right
Transformation Resource Centre together with other non-governmental organizations (TED, LRCS, World Vision) focusing on the provision of water and sanitation as a human right in Lesotho and some government departments and parastatals in that field are organizing World Toilet Day on November 19, 2015. The aim of World Toilet Day is to raise awareness about people in the world who don’t have access to a toilet, despite the fact that it is a human right to have clean water and sanitation. This year, World Toilet Day is focusing on the link between sanitation and nutrition, drawing the world’s attention to the importance of toilets in supporting better nutrition and improved health. Lack of access to clean drinking water and sanitation, along with the absence of good hygiene practices, are among the underlying causes of poor nutrition. This issue about toilets falls in the UN agenda on water and sanitation. In the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) it was number seven (Ensure environmental sustainability) and currently under sustainable development goals (SDGs) it is number six - clean water and sanitation “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” In August 2010 the UN General Assembly passed resolution 64/292 “The Human Right to Water and Sanitation Resolution”. The same resolution modified as “human rights and access to safe drinking water and sanitation” was adopted by the Human Rights Council in September of that year. In July 2013 the UN General Assembly passed a more directed resolution ‘The Sanitation for All Resolution” (A/RES/67/291) after a joint initiative made by the Government of Singapore and World Toilet Organization calling for collective action to address the global sanitation crisis through the commemoration of World Toilet Day since 2001. This resolution was then co-sponsored and adopted by 122 countries at this 67th session of the UN General Assembly in New York and on July 24, 2013, World Toilet Day - 19 November, became an official UN day. With this resolution, member states were making a commitment to scale up delivery as far as sanitation is consent. The custodianship of organizing activities, campaigns, intervention and developing themes is vested in the UN-Water. Two billion people across the globe are without access to proper sanitation and amongst them one billion use open defecation. UN-Water estimates that 25% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa are still practicing open defecation and we see this situation daily in our communities therefore it is not a foreign phenomenon. This is further confirmed by the national strategic development plan 2012-17 which indicates that 47% in the rural areas and23% of Basotho in the urban areas lack access to basic sanitation. Inappropriate sanitation increases the risk of diseases and malnutrition, especially for women and children. Women and girls also risk rape and abuse, because they have no toilet that offers privacy. Some diseases such as diarrhea caused by poor sanitation are attributed to be the third cause of death amongst infants. Proper water and sanitation services can reduce diarrhea cases by 88%. Nutrition status of Lesotho in 2014 shows 39% and 33 % of stunting levels in 2014 and 2015 respectively which most of it is related to lack of access to improved WASH services. read press statement PDF
TRC works for and with communities to influence government policy decisions through a number of activities