Rights watchdog will stop culture of impunity

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THE move to set up an independent human rights watchdog to protect the rights of citizens should be seen as the first concrete step by the government in the fight against a culture of impunity.

We welcome the decision with both hands.

The Human Rights Commission will investigate and prosecute all rights violators.

The Bill’s statement of objects and reasons says the new commission shall monitor the state of human rights in Lesotho as well as the rights situation of detainees.

The commission will also seek to investigate violations of human rights and if necessary institute proceedings against perpetrators of such violations in the High Court.

If passed into law the Bill will certainly give the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili a golden opportunity to advertise its commitment to democracy and the rule of law.

Lesotho, while not in the same fold as Zimbabwe and Myanmar, has certainly had its fair share of human rights violations.

This has been particularly true during the forgettable reign of Basotho National Party strongman Leabua Jonathan in the 1970s and early 80s.

The same was also true when the military junta ran the show in this country in the late 80s.

Sadly, human rights violations still continue although on a much smaller scale.

We think the setting up of the commission, and the attendant programmes to educate the community on the subject, were long overdue.

The decision to set up the commission also says a lot about the quality of our young democracy.

Lesotho has its own failings but overall we have not plumbed to the depths of Uganda under Idi Amin.

We seem to have a leadership that appreciates that respect for the rights of citizens is a key tenet of any democratic system.

But sometimes these leaders slip off the rails here and there and need timely reminders to keep the promise.

This is in sharp contrast to what is happening elsewhere on the continent.

We have had governments here in Africa wilfully trampling on the rights of citizens with impunity.

That culture of impunity needs to stop.

We must smash the culture of unaccountability.

Leaders must know that they cannot commit atrocities against the people and literally get away with it.

There should be consequences.

There seems to be a certain sub-section of our police who seem to derive pleasure from inflicting torture on defenceless citizens.

There are numerous cases before the courts where citizens are suing the police for torture.

The new commission must deal with rights violators within our police force and other state security agencies.

It must also empower the police to respect and uphold the rights of suspects.

Resorting to brutal methods of torture to extract confessions should have no place in a modern, democratic Lesotho.

Human rights should not be seen as a preserve of a civil society that is pushing a regime change agenda. These rights are universal.

Lesotho must demonstrate through its actions that it does not tolerate rights violators in Africa by clearly speaking out against tyranny.

Its foreign policy must not leave anyone in doubt as to where the country stands.

We also hope the decision to enact the new rights commission is a clear signal from the government of Mosisili that it will not preach democracy during the day only to hobnob with dictators at night.

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