… they beat evidence out of suspects
…more than 100 dead at the hands of police
At least 100 civilians have died during ‘police interrogation’ in the period spanning 2017-todate, because of utilising force to extract data from suspects by members of the police service, Newsday has learnt.
According to a report from a study conducted by a ministerial committee set up to investigate the rampant instability in the force, most police officers lack basic evidence gathering and investigation skills, hence they opt for brutality as a means of beating the evidence out of suspects.
The Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro told the media at the event of the launch of the report that, most of the members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) lack investigative skills hence have to be given refresher courses regularly to stimulate their probing skills.
Majoro said he received a report from the Committee which was comprised of the Minister of Police Mamoipone Senauoane, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Prince Maliehe, Minister of Justice and Law Nqosa Mahao, Minister of Police and Public Service Kemiso Mosenene which was assigned to investigate the cause of instability within the police department.
The committee was tasked to investigate the root of instability within the police quarters. He said apart from lack of probing expertise, the committee found that external political influence has also snooped in the police services, thus polarising the relations from the upper rank to the last.
“Human rights abuses of citizens by members of the LMPS including torture and murder have a long history and are deeply embedded. Many hypotheses have been offered for this including demoralisation, lack of uniforms and equipment, unclear criteria for rewards, dehumanising training culture, political pressure on the police to contain crime at all cost and thus inciting police to extract confessions, and investigative skills and equipment being in short supply leading to brutality,” Majoro said.
“In most cases of police brutality, while investigations tend to be undertaken, there has not been commensurate prosecution of suspects,” he said.
Majoro pointed out that one of the factors that embitter the police and discourages them from properly discharging their duty as expected is the 65 salary hiking which was promised them by the 2014 government; but was not executed until 2017.Promotion and appointment is in the roster of major causes of instability within the police stations, conflicts within the management of the services, as well as the role of Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA).
“By the time it was resolved following the new government in 2017, it had already spread considerable bad blood between police management and the police rank and file represented by LEPOSA,” he said.
He further stressed on intrusion of politicians as one of the main causes of instability in the service since different politicians have different motives for using the members of the police for their own benefit, hence agreeing to be enticed by them causes instability and is contributory to police brutality.
“Well-established and accepted promotion practices and appointments in the Lesotho Mounted Police Services have in recent times been substituted by seemingly unilateral or politically motivated decision-making practices. Some of these have been successfully questioned in the courts of law by LEPOSA or resulted in generalised dissatisfaction in the police,” he said.
“Accusations and counter-accusations of mal-administration, commissions of crime, favouritism and open disdain of each other within the top brass of the LMPS are rife. External politics and considerable politicisation of the LMPS have severely polarised relations within the service and certainly within the top management of the police services.
“The first amendment of the Constitution of Lesotho eliminated the Defence Commission whose responsibility was to appoint the heads of the security agencies, and bestowed those powers onto the Office of the Prime Minister. This amendment, which was an effort by the BCP Government to wrest control of the institutions that for a long time had come under the spell of BNP, has led to the prevailing polarisation and instability dogging the security agencies and the LMPS in particular. This pattern has become more pronounced with coalition governments beginning in 2012.
“The LMPS regulations recognise LEPOSA as the representative of the welfare interests of both professional police and civilian staff within the LMPS. The regulations confer on LEPOSA the status of an independent body vested with the rights to sue and be sued. Over time LEPOSA has become a powerful organisation and has attracted the interest of political parties seeking to influence the allegiance of the members of the police in one direction or another. Meanwhile section 66 of the police Act prohibits members of the LMPS from becoming members of political parties or trade unions. “The committee observed that LEPOSA has however morphed into a classical trade union and often challenges the authority of the Commissioner of police over members of LEPOSA executive. As LEPOSA is open to all ranks in the LMPS, the association has also been vulnerable to infiltration of power struggle,” he said.