The ICJ is monitoring the ongoing trial under court martial of the 23 members of the Lesotho Defence Forces in the case The King vs Brigadier Mareka and 22 Others.
The Court Martial was convened through a government order issued and signed by the Minister of Defence and National Security Hon Tseliso Mokhosi on 13 August 2015.
Under the convening order, Brigadier Mareka and 22 others were generally accused of charges related to planning and or involvement in mutiny and violence.
The convening order also identified the names of the members of the court martial as well as the prosecuting authority at such court martial.
The court martial raises issues around observance of human rights, the rule of law and good governance in Lesotho.
Its significance is reflected in the fact that the Southern African Development Community (SADC), an inter-governmental organization, is also seized with the matter as part of its mandate under the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, and directed the convening of a SADC supported Commission of Inquiry into the issues related to the court martial.
The subsequently-established Commission of Inquiry has completed its work and filed its report with the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation and the Prime Minister of Lesotho.
The report is yet to be made public and is planned to be released on the 8th February 2016.
The ICJ will particularly monitor the consistency of the Court Martial trial with international fair trial standards, both in terms of the conduct of proceedings, and the independence and impartiality of the tribunal including in light of the manner of selection of the Court Martial members, in which a number of junior soldiers were promoted in rank in order to justify their presiding in a disciplinary case over their superiors.
In particular the promotion of the President of the Court Martial Major General Letsoela seems to have been done to facilitate that he as a junior officer sits to determine a case involving Brigadier Mareka and another brigadier who ordinarily are his superiors in terms of rank.
The ICJ will also monitor whether the Court Martial and investigative authorities act in accordance with international standards in responding to the credible allegations of human rights violations committed against Brigadier Mareka and 22 others.
The allegations include prolonged incommunicado detention, torture, inhuman and other degrading treatment while in custody, being inhibited from fully consulting with and briefing their legal representatives, and defiance of High Court orders by the Lesotho Defence Forces including that the soldiers should be detained in open prison and not a military detention facility and should not be kept in leg irons.
Arnold Tsunga, ICJ’s Africa Director, t: +277 16405926 ; e: arnold.tsunga(a)icj.org
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