MASERU — A civil society group yesterday reacted angrily to threats by a senior police officer to torture suspects.
This was in response to Lithoteng police commander, Senior Inspector Lenkoane Lenkoane, who publicly threatened to torture crime suspects.
Lenkoane was speaking at a public gathering in Qoaling last weekend.
Lesotho Council of NGOs (LCN) Commissioner of Human Rights, Thuso Ramabolu, said while the police are entitled to fight crime they should do so within the confines of the law.
Lenkoane’s remarks were totally uncalled for, he said.
Ramabolu is currently investigating incidents in which two men died while in police custody in Mafeteng and the torture of villagers in Berea Ha-Makebe.
He said although he did not hear Lenkoane speak the bottom line is “it is part of the police’s duty to observe human rights as we well know that human rights form part of their training”.
“The police should be accountable for their deeds especially when we know for a certainty that they are conversant with human rights issues,” Ramabolu said.
“We, as human rights activists, condemn all acts of impunity by the police.”
Ramabolu said Lesotho has ratified many key instruments that protect human rights.
He said one of the international standards Lesotho adopted is that in the performance of their duties, police officials shall respect and protect human dignity, maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.
He said the statutes state that “no police officer shall, under any circumstance, inflict, instigate or tolerate any act of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of any person”.
These standards, Ramabolu said, should guide the police as they discharge their duties.
An MP and opposition party leader, Kelebone Maope, who once served as attorney general and law lecturer, said the police often compensate their failure to investigate cases because of lack of skills by torturing crime suspects.
Maope said the police often get embarrassed when they lose cases in court due to lack of evidence hence resulting in them forcing suspects to confess to commission of a crime.
“They want to prove themselves as competent crime investigators and when they fail they set about torturing suspects, wanting them to confess to a crime they did not commit,” Maope said.
He said in most cases such police officers go scot-free and it seems that the government has for a long time turned a blind eye to their misdeeds.
“With the knowledge that no serious disciplinary action will be taken against them, some police officers make torturing people in their custody part of their duty,” he said.
Maope suggested that more university graduates should be recruited in the police service to destabilise the level of ignorance in the service.
He also suggested that the Police Training College should be turned into an institution of specialised scientific investigations with the aim to relieve ordinary cops from difficult duties that need investigators with up-to-date expertise.