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SADC Lawyers Association

Report of the SADC Lawyers Association fact finding mission to Lesotho

SADC Lawyers Association

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On July 20th 2007 a delegation of civil society organisations from Lesotho paid a visit to the offices of the Southern African Development Community Lawyers Association. The delegation made the following presentation:

The presentation by civil society groups of Lesotho at SADC LA Offices, Gaborone, Friday July 20th 2007

  1. In June 2007 a curfew was declared in Lesotho following incidents which occurred around the residencies of several politicians. Since then certain events have taken place which have impacted negatively on the Lesotho peoples' rights. Citizens have been harassed and subjected to violent and indecent searches. A number of physical assaults have also been recorded on the civilian population.

  2. There has been a number of abductions, cases of torture and the denial of legal rights to citizens arrested under unclear circumstances. In one notorious case a court order directing the security forces to release five individuals was ignored.

  3. The delegation from civil society in Lesotho wishes to publicise the violations of the rule of law in Lesotho throughout the SADC region. Further, part of the delegation consists of the interests of the Law Society of Lesotho, and this explains why amongst other hosts the delegation has visited SADC LA.

  4. The Law Society of Lesotho has reacted against these violations by filing an application seeking to prevent the army from assaulting or harassing the population.

  5. The Representations have met Sir Q. Masire in a courtesy call as well as the SADC Secretariat, Sir Q. Masire is the facilitator for the dialogue on Lesotho. A meeting has also been held with the Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO).

  6. The media groups in Lesotho are also very concerned about the violations of the freedom of expression in Lesotho. Journalists are being subjected to harassment, e.g., the Chairperson of MISA in the region was recently detained and eventually charged with violating the Internal Secrets Act which was copied from apartheid era South Africa.

  7. The ruling party is using the army to push its agenda of silencing independent and critical media houses. One radio station was recently informed that its content was "unacceptable" by a regulator who has no power to make such interventions. Worse the army has even taken to use the media to deliver threats against supposed opponents including the courts.

Following the above representation the Law Society of Lesotho requested the Association to visit Lesotho on a fact-finding mission. Fact-finding missions are one way by which the Association gathers important information for the purpose of its advocacy work on the promotion of the rule of law and the respect for human rights in the SADC region.

The Law Society provided the Association with the relevant contact details of the Lesotho authorities. Further the Association's President, Mr. Sternford Moyo wrote to the Prime Minister of Lesotho to introduce the fact-finding mission and its delegation and to inform him of the nature of the Association's business.

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