Lesotho

Dispute between top judges and political leaders in Lesotho hots up

The ongoing drama involving open conflict between political and judicial leaders in Lesotho continued this week and there is no sign that anyone is about to relent. Three potentially explosive challenges have been brought to court over the last few days, one of them a late-night urgent application. Two are for appeal while one is to be heard in the high court. All of them involve the judiciary probing highly sensitive political and judicial issues and raise questions of judicial independence.

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The story so far. Lesotho’s Prime Minister Tom Thabane has served notice on Court of Appeal President, Kanenelo Mosito, saying he should give reasons why he should not be suspended pending an inquiry into whether he should be impeached.

In that notice, Thabane quoted from a letter by acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase to Judge Mosito complaining, among others, about steps he had taken that she claimed undermined the office of the CJ.

High-ranking accused in "scurrilous" bid to remove foreign judges from Lesotho cases

When Judge Charles Hungwe from Zimbabwe arrived in Lesotho earlier this year to start work on a series of controversial trials, he was given a warm reception in the local media. But since then the accused in some of the cases over which he was due to preside proved rather less than welcoming. In fact, 16 accused initially due to stand trial before him, led by Lesotho's former defence minister, Tseliso Mokhosi, have brought an application for his appointment – and the appointment of all other foreign judges who might hear the pending cases – to be declared unconstitutional. 

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Zimbabwe's Judge Charles Hungwe is one of several foreign judges who applied to hear controversial criminal cases involving high-ranking figures from among Lesotho’s politicians, army and police.

Lesotho police service becoming "an institution of official torture" - constitutional court

The police in Lesotho, rapidly acquiring a reputation for acting as though they are above the law and even above the courts, have had a rude awakening: that country’s constitutional court has delivered a strongly-worded decision taking the police authorities to task for not obeying the law, and clarifying the rights of suspects in relation to police arrests, detention and interrogation. The judges found that the police violated the constitutional rights of two suspects, held far beyond the time provided for by the law and under unlawful conditions.

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From the first words of the introduction there can be no doubt where this judgment is headed – and that it will be a momentous step for the police and the courts in Lesotho.

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