Lesotho

Fight over defence fees in controversial Lesotho trial

The Zimbabwean judge due to preside in Lesotho over a series of high-profile murder and attempted murder cases, has begun to stamp his authority on the matter. This week, Judge Charles Hungwe showed his patience was running out with the constant delays preventing the case proper from getting under way. Dealing with an application in the high court, Maseru, he held that that a decision by the high court registrar to allocate state-funded pro deo counsel to the accused, was not properly made and should be declared invalid.

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The long-delayed trial involves more than 30 members of Lesotho’s military and police. They are charged with a range of serious offences including murder and kidnapping, arising from an attempted coup in August 2014.

Magistrates in Lesotho introduce new deal for awaiting trial prisoners

Magistrates across Lesotho, concerned about the continuing conditions there that they believe impact negatively on the rule of law, judicial integrity and general confidence in the legal system, have taken a number of resolutions likely to impact on the courts and the public. Among others, they have resolved to release people being held awaiting trial if their cases ‘are not prosecuted within a reasonable time’. They have also resolved to dismiss criminal cases where ‘pending investigations’ have continued for an ‘unreasonably long time’.

Magistrates in Lesotho are clearly unhappy. This year they have already tried repeated strikes to highlight their concerns but without success - promises made to them have come to nothing. 

Then, this week, representatives of the magistracy from across Lesotho met in Maseru and took a number of decisions likely to impact on the functioning of the courts and the legal system throughout the country.

Both Lesotho's top judges facing suspension

Lesotho continues to prove itself highly unstable in relation to the judiciary and its tenure of office. More threats of suspension, inquiries related to impeachment and other disciplinary steps against top judges have been issued in Lesotho than in any other country in the region. This week, new action was launched against the Acting Chief Justice as well as against the President of the Court of Appeal (for the second time in two months this year, and following a successful impeachment process in 2016 from which he bounced back).

Controversies tied to the judiciary in Lesotho continued unabated this week. First shock was that Prime Minister Thomas Thabane renewed his attempt to have the Court of Appeal president, Kananelo Mosito, suspended pending an inquiry into his behaviour. It is Thabane's second attempt in just a few weeks, and follows shortly after the appeal court had ruled that Thabane could not again threaten Judge Mosito with suspension on the basis of a letter of complaint written by the Acting Chief Justice.

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