In response to the release on “open arrest” today of the final seven Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members detained on mutiny charges since 2015, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena said:
“Today’s release of the seven members of the Lesotho Defence Force, after almost two years in detention without trial on mutiny charges, is a long overdue step.
“The SADC commission of enquiry found the mutiny charges against the group of 23 soldiers these seven were detained with to be ‘suspect’. The mutiny charges against all 23 soldiers must be quashed.
“The soldiers were held in inhumane conditions, some have raised serious allegations they were tortured, and some were denied sufficient medical treatment. There must be a thorough, independent and impartial investigation into these allegations and suspected perpetrators brought to justice.”
A total of 23 members of the LDF were arrested between May and June 2015 for suspected mutiny and detained at Maseru Maximum Security Prison. The other 16 soldiers were released in batches between 2015 and early 2017.
They were arrested for their perceived support for slain LDF commander, Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao, who was killed by members of the LDF on 25 June 2015.
The High Court declared their continued detention unlawful and ordered their release on “open arrest” on 5 October 2015, but army officials defied the court order.