The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Lesotho.
Brief description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continuous harassment and attack against Mr. Lloyd Mutungamiri, a Zimbabwean journalist and Editor of the Lesotho Times, as well as various staff members of the Lesotho Times, in relation to an article published in the newspaper Issue No. 12 of June 23-29, 2016 about Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, current commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) .
According to the information received, on July 9, 2016, at around 11pm, Mr. Lloyd Mutungamiri was attacked by unknown gunmen upon arrival to his home at Ha Thamae, in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho, who shot at him four times. Mr. Lloyd Mutungamiri sustained gunshots wounds and a bullet is still lodged in his jaw. He was first treated at Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital in Maseru, under constant police and military watch, before being transferred on July 12 to a hospital in Bloemfontein, South Africa. His condition remains critical. The soothing of Mr. Mutungamiri is the high point of a series of continuous harassment and intimidation he has recently faced, along with various staff members of the Lesotho Times.
On June 23, 2016, at around 5pm, Ms. Keiso Mohloboli, investigative journalist at both Lesotho Times and the Sunday Express, received a phone call from a police officer named Khesa inquiring about her whereabouts. As soon as she informed the police officer of her location, two police officers came to pick her up and bring her to Maseru police headquarters, where Assistant Commissioner of the Police Tutuoane and five other police officers interrogated her regarding the above-mentioned article she had written about the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli. At around 10 pm, Ms. Mohloboli was released on the condition that she writes an apology letter to the LDF Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli as well as apologised publicly in the Lesotho Times and Sunday Express newspapers.
In the morning of June 24, 2016, three police officers arrested Ms. Keiso Mohloboli and Mr. Lloyd Mutungamiri at the Lesotho Times office and brought them to the Mabote police station, where they were interrogated and asked to disclose their sources for the above-mentioned article. Ms. Mohloboli and Mr. Mutungamiri were denied the right to a lawyer despite their requests. Both were released later that day. While Ms. Mohloboli was released without condition, Mr. Mutungamiri was released on condition that he reports himself again on June 27, 2016 with the Lesotho Times Chief Operations Officer Tshepo Tlapi, owner and Publisher Basildon Peta and Head of Production Mr. Ngoni. The police confiscated Mr Mutungamiri’s Zimbabwean passport without any reasons and court order or as part of bail conditions.
On June 27, 2016, Mr. Mutungamiri reported to the police alone, where he was briefly interrogated before being released. He was also given back his passport.
On July 5, 2016, Mr. Peta and Mr. Mutungamiri reported again to the police. Mr. Basildon Peta was subsequently taken to the Magistrate Court, where he was charged for "defamation" and "crimen injuria", under Section 104 of the Penal Code Act No 6 of 2010.
The Observatory strongly condemns the shooting of Mr. Lloyd Mutungamiri and the ongoing harassment against him, Mr. Basildon Peta, Ms. Keiso Mohloboli and other staff members of the Lesotho Times, which seems to be aimed at hindering their legitimate human rights activities, and calls on the authorities of Lesotho to guarantee in all circumstances their physical and psychological integrity and to put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against them.
Please write to the authorities of Lesotho asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Lloyd Mutungamiri, Ms. Keiso Mohloboli, Mr. Basildon Peta as well as of all staff members of the Lesotho Times and all human rights defenders in Lesotho;
ii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into the above-mentioned attack against Mr. Lloyd Mutungamiri in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them in accordance with the law;
iii. Put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Lloyd Mutungamiri, Ms. Keiso Mohloboli, Mr. Basildon Peta as well as all human rights defenders in Lesotho, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals;
iv. Comply with the national and international legislation safeguarding the independence of lawyers and protecting them from unlawful interference in their professional activities;
v. Conform with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, especially its Articles 1 and 12.2;
vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Lesotho.
· H.M. King Letsie III, the Royal Palace Secretariat, P.0. Box 527, Maseru, Lesotho, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Hon Dr. Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho, Fax: +266-22310444
· Mr. Moeketse Malebo, Minister of Justice, Human Rights and Correctional Service of the Kingdom of Lesotho, Fax: +266 22310365 Email : email@example.com
· Mr. Tlohang Sekhamane, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations of the Kingdom of Lesotho, Fax: (+266) 2231 0178 / 2231 0642 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Lesotho to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 900 05 25; Email: email@example.com
· Embassy of Lesotho in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 705 6779 / 3675 / 3976; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Lesotho in your respective country.