Maseru-On 15 April 2016, the Court of Appeal in Lesotho will hear arguments on the ongoing detention of soldiers who were apprehended between May and July 2015. The arrests escalated the political and security crisis in Lesotho. The ongoing detention of these soldiers is symptomatic of the crisis which appears to start and end with the Lesotho Defence Force and its incongruous hold on Lesotho politics.
What: Mareka and 22 Others v the Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force and Others.
Where: Court of Appeal of Lesotho, Maseru
When: 09H30, Friday 15 April 2016, Court A
The detained soldiers, together with the late Lt. General Mahao, were accused of plotting a mutiny against the current LDF Commander, Lt. General Kamoli. In the wake of Lt. General Mahao’s killing, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), at the invitation of the government of Lesotho, set up an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate Lt. General Mahao’s death as well as the mutiny plot allegations.
The applicants in the Mareka case sought to cooperate with the SADC Commission of Inquiry in order for it to establish an independent factual basis to inform any decisions on prosecution. While the Commission commenced its work, the LDF continued to detain the applicants under closed arrest and convened a Court Martial with a prosecutorial team that included parties alleged to be victims of the mutiny plot. The Commission’s report was eventually released in February 2016, and concluded that “the alleged mutiny might be a fabrication just to punish those officers who celebrated the appointment of Brigadier Mahao as Commander of the LDF”.
The case was argued in the Maseru High Court on 16 September 2015. On 5 October 2015, Makara J held that the soldiers’ detention under closed arrest was unlawful, and ordered that they be released on open arrest. The Court dismissed the remainder of the applicants’ prayers. The case before the Court of Appeal relates to the dismissal of those prayers the High Court declined to grant. The LDF respondents have cross-appealed the order to release the applicants on open arrest. Most of the applicants remain in detention.
Issued by: The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC).
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