…says officers who violate human rights will be prosecuted
MASERU – “A violent society breeds a violent police service.” Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli (Pictured)said this on Tuesday while responding to allegations of police brutality.
Commissioner Molibeli was speaking at the virtual signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Sesotho Media and Development and She-Hive Association.
Sesotho Media and Development is a media-based human rights organisation implementing programmes reaching out to a wide range of audiences through film screenings. She-Hive is an association founded by survivors of domestic violence to provide therapy to children who experienced violence at home.
Under the MoU, the police, Sesotho Media and She-Hive will embark on an anti-gender-based violence campaign supported by the European Union (EU) to the tune of Euro 750 000 (about M12.7 million) between 2021 to 2025.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, Commissioner Molibeli urged the media to treat the police fairly.
He said the partnership will help improve police services, while also working to eradicate domestic violence.
“I am worried by the way the media handle the issue of police brutality. It is not a political tool and it shouldn’t be,” Commissioner Molibeli said.
“We have to make sure that we deal with this matter decisively.”
He assured stakeholders that the police are “highly committed and disciplined”.
“We will do as required and even go beyond expectations. We have a lot of LMPS members who are dedicated and disciplined.”
“I am happy that once the project is completed, we will leave capacitated officers as far as human rights are concerned.”
He said they have seen the need to reform, capacitate officers and raise awareness even to the public so that they can report cases of human rights.
“We will be very careful not to trample on their rights once they know. We are committed to ensuring no abuse in our daily duties as we are aware that only courts are in a position to punish suspects.”
Deputy Commissioner of Police Sera Makharilele said they are mandated to uphold and not abuse the law.
“We can’t do that on our own hence the need for collaboration between the public and other stakeholders,” DCP Makharilele said.
He said the project came “at the right time to the right people”.
“It came at the right time when the public complained about human rights violations. The project will help us find a solution. It will indeed help us in police reforms processes,” he said.
’Mamolefe Petlane, the Executive Director of Sesotho Media and Development who is also the director of the programme, said Lesotho has ratified many United Nations Human Rights Conventions and thus has made binding international commitments.
“Our constitution and relevant supporting legislation and the systems of the judiciary and law enforcement have all been set up to protect the rights, well-being, dignity, and lives of Basotho,” Petlane said.
She said Lesotho has laws and a judicial system to protect people from human rights abuses but the implementation of such laws was lacking.
“Our human rights situation has been of critical concern to us as Basotho, to our partners, friends in the region, continent and from abroad,” she said.
A 2018 Afro-Barometer survey, she said, revealed that most Basotho are concerned about police brutality, which is perceived as a serious problem in the country.
“The survey found that two-thirds of Basotho say some police members routinely abuse or torture people in their custody. This takes away the slogan ‘Lepolesa Mothusi Motsoalle (A police a helper, a friend)’,” she said.
In 2020, following a public call by the European Union (EU) seeking to promote human rights and support civil society organisations as actors of governance and development, Sesotho Media in association with She-Hive approached Commissioner Molibeli to discuss the challenge of human rights violations by the police.
During these consultations a consensus was reached on the urgent need for a concerted effort to bring together the police, civil society, the media and the general public to strategically address this challenge.
Petlane said further consultations were done with representatives of various sectors, echoing the need for participatory platforms to break the silence around this challenge and empower communities and LMPS to mobilise and engage in dialogue around these issues.
The programme, which Petlane launched on Tuesday, is called The Accountability and Capacity Building Initiative by Lesotho CSOs.
The programme aims to bring together the police, civil society and the public for the realization of human rights compliance by the police.
“As we sign this milestone MoU with the LMPS, we are privileged as SM&D, to be representing the collective will and interests of our partners, CSOs, media, the public including all minority groups,” Petlane said.
“This is a project for Basotho, seeking to provide a grassroots-led solution to the human rights challenge.”
“The train is ready to leave the station, join us as we journey together towards the realization of human rights compliance by the LMPS.”