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Inculcate spirit of respect for human rights

THE brutal assault of nine soldiers at the Maseru Central Correctional Facility last week is yet another sad reminder of the centrality of violence in our society. We are a people who tend to respond disproportionately at the slightest whiff of provocation.

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We mete out violence to settle disagreements, disagreements that we could have easily resolved with better communication and better conflict management skills.
We are therefore not surprised by what happened at the Maseru Central Correctional Facility last week. It was bound to happen.

What transpired is just a mirror reflection of our flawed society and who we are as a people – that we are a people who believe in the use of violence to settle disputes.
We find it extremely upsetting that soldiers, who must be among some of the most guarded inmates at the Maseru Central Correctional Facility, given their international profile, would be assaulted to that extent.

Even though the soldiers stand accused of horrific crimes like murder, they still deserve to be treated humanely and with respect. There would be an international outcry were something to happen to the soldiers in prison.
It is on that basis that we strongly feel that as guests of the state the soldiers must be given full protection of the law.

It is therefore in the government’s interest to ensure that the soldiers enjoy the full protection of the law and that their basic rights while in prison are fully protected.
Of course, we still do not know what triggered the assaults. Whatever it was, it could and should not have justified the egregious violence that the LCS officers meted on the soldiers.

The staggering levels of brutality on show were simply not acceptable. This was a clear violation of the prisoners’ basic rights.
By subjecting the soldiers to such brutal beatings, the LCS officers injured the soldiers’ dignity and posed a serious threat to their very lives.

It is on this basis that the Law Society of Lesotho has now demanded the resignation of LCS Commissioner Mating Nkakala. It said Nkakala must resign or they will go to court to push him out.
The Society argues that the “severity of the security breaches and the reported acts of violence demand a change in leadership to restore public trust and uphold the principles of justice”.

“The principles of justice, fairness, and respect for human dignity must prevail even in the most challenging circumstances,” it said.
We agree.

We are also not surprised that the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela has reacted angrily to the shocking acts of violence perpetrated by the LCS officers.

Lt Gen Letsoela has demanded an explanation from Nkakala over the assaults or there will be blood on the floor.
While the assault of the soldiers is bad news, there is only one positive that we could spin from this sad episode. The assault has succeeded in shining light on some of the despicable acts that happen behind prison walls.

For many years, journalists have channelled their energy on yet another rotten institution of the state – the police – for their brazen acts of torture against suspects.
Despite numerous stories highlighting these rights violations, very little has changed.

What is clear is that the use of violence is an institutional issue that is spread across all security agencies. This must now be addressed so that we inculcate a spirit of respect for people’s basic rights and freedoms.

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