Top soldier in trouble over 2007 misconduct

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MASERU — An army captain with the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Lehloa Ramot’so, was last Wednesday court-martialled for violating the Lesotho Defence Force Act, 1996.

Ramot’so was court-martialled at Makoanyane Barracks for “conduct prejudicial to military discipline” relating to the political disturbances that rocked Lesotho in June 2007 that saw government ministers attacked by unknown gunmen.

“On 17 June 2007, between 2030 hours and 2300 hours . . . the accused unlawfully and intentionally conducted himself in a manner prejudicial to good order and military discipline by personally ill-treating and ordering his subordinates to ill-treat civilians who had disobeyed a curfew order by making them to frog-jump and roll on the road,” read the charge sheet.

Ramot’so’s lawyer, Haae Phoofolo objected to the charge arguing that the charges against his client were not well-framed.

“The objection is based on the rights of the accused in terms of section 22 (1) of the Lesotho Defence Force Act which states that the accused may object to a charge if it is not well-framed,” Phoofolo said.

Phoofolo argued that the accused had a right to know the full particulars of the charge including the rank and name of the army officer who pressed the charge against Ramot’so.

“We are not able to plead to the charge as it is framed,” Phoofolo told the court-martial.

He said in the absence of further particulars being furnished, the charge should not stand.

He said Ramot’so was entitled to know the names of the people he allegedly ill-treated as well as the subordinates he ordered to carry out the unlawful orders.

Prosecutor Lieutenant Ralint’si Mpanye told the president of the court martial, Major Thabang Mathatjane, that the prosecution had given the accused enough information about the charge.

“The objection that his subordinates are not mentioned will not stand,” Mpanye countered. 

The prosecutor said it should be clear that what the accused was charged with, is his conduct not his subordinates, hence the date, the place and the time are given clearly in the particulars.

Last Thursday, the court said it was satisfied that the charge sheet should be amended to read that the accused “unlawfully and intentionally conducted himself in a manner prejudicial to good conduct and military discipline by personally ill-treating and ordering his subordinates to ill-treat people ‘unknown to the prosecutor’ who had disobeyed a curfew order”.

The officers who were allegedly ordered to force people to frog-jump are Private Mabeta, Private Malewa, Private Fuutu, Private Pamara, Private Khosi and Private Rammea.

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