Windfall for torture

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MASERU — The High Court on Monday awarded M110 010 in damages to a Maseru woman who was tortured by the police while in detention in 2004.

Justice Gabriel Mofolo ruled that the office of the commissioner of police and that of the attorney general should compensate Neo Masupha for unlawful detention, torture, shock, medical expenses and cost of suit.

Masupha was working as an assistant immigration officer at Van Rooyen’s Gate in Mafeteng when she was arrested on November 10, 2004 by two police officers who accused her of fraud.

She told the court that she was taken to Mafeteng police station where the two officers covered her face with a cloth and tied her hands behind her back.

The officers then started torturing her, Masupha told the court.

In his judgment, Justice Mofolo lambasted the police’s brutality and heavy-handedness. 

“I was appalled that human beings could be treated in this Kingdom in such a barbaric fashion,” Justice Mofolo said.

“The conduct of the offenders (police officers) warrants a stricter censure as it is reminiscent of some of the excesses of the KGB, the Gestapo as well as the treatment meted out to the late Steve Biko.”

The KGB was a feared national security agency in the now defunct Soviet Union.

It was accused of perpetrating gross human rights violations against government critics.

It was also known for its unorthodox means of extracting information from individuals deemed enemies of the state.

The Gestapo was a shadowy and ruthless secret service unit in Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.

Biko was a South Africa anti-apartheid activist who was tortured and murdered by the apartheid regime in

September 1977.

“The court is expressing its dim view of treatment of suspects by government security agents,” said the judge.

“I am also of the view investigative shenanigans characterised in Mohlaba’s case are standard form for criminal investigations in Lesotho.

 “I have found as a fact that on a balance of probability the plaintiff has proved her case and doing justice to both the plaintiff and defendants it seems to me plaintiff’s case should succeed to the effect that defendants jointly and severally pay the plaintiff damages,” said the judge.

Justice Mofolo said Masupha should be paid M10 000 for unlawful detention, M50 000 for pain, shock and suffering and M50 000 for the humiliating treatment she suffered at the hands of the police.

She will also be paid M10 for medical expenses.

Masupha had through her lawyer, Advocate Zwelakhe Mda, initially claimed M100 000 for unlawful arrest, M199 990 for pain and M100 000 for shock and suffering.

Masupha told the court that one of the policemen, Daniel Moepi, had covered her face with a tube while pouring water in it until she lost consciousness.

She said when she regained consciousness she noticed 15 men and two women who were laughing at her for soiling herself as a result of the pain.

She said Moepi had beaten her with a knobkerrie saying that she “would never give birth to children again”.

“This happened in 2004 when she was then 29 years and she has not had children since then,” Justice Mofolo said in his judgment. 

“As the torment continued, she felt debased, did not feel human but animal-like. The pain was both mental and physical. The torment hurt so much it was like part of her being taken away and leaving her bare,” he added.

“Though recovered from the injuries she has not yet recovered from the ordeal and even today she gets upset when she sees a policeman.

“She suffered hallucinations and recurrent trauma and feels reduced to nothingness as a result of what she was exposed to and at work, though a senior officer, the affair had impacted badly on her dignity in the eyes of her junior staff.”

Justice Mofolo said although there is no scale to measure pain and suffering in monetary terms, the court had discretion to decide the compensation to be awarded.

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