Press Release on the Promotion Mission of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to the Kingdom of Lesotho (08 – 12 October 2018)

    Following the authorization of the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho, and in accordance with Article 45(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Charter), a Delegation of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) undertook a human rights promotion mission to the Kingdom of Lesotho (Lesotho) from 08 to 12 October 2019.

    The Delegation was composed of:

             Honourable Commissioner Yeung Kam John Yeung Sik Yuen, Commissioner in charge of the promotion and protection of human rights in the Kingdom of Lesotho, Chairperson of the Commission's Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities in Africa

             Honourable Commissioner Yeung Kam John Yeung Sik Yuen was accompanied by Mr Bruno Menzan, Legal Officer at the Secretariat of the Commission.

    The objectives of the mission were, inter alia, to promote the African Charter and all other regional and international human rights instruments which the country has ratified; strengthen relations between the Commission and Lesotho, engage with relevant stakeholders, exchange views on ways and means of enhancing the enjoyment of human rights in the country and seek information on human rights issues of particular concern to the Commission; follow up on recommendations made in the past to Lesotho by the Commission; and encourage Lesotho to bring to date its Periodic Reports in accordance with Article 62 of the African Charter.

    During the mission, the Delegation met and held discussions with Ministers and Officials from the Government, including the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs; the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services; the Minister of Mining; the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations; the Deputy Minister of Education and Training; the Deputy Minister of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation; Senior Officials from the Ministry of Social Development; the Ministry of Home Affairs; the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Police and Public Safety; the Commissioner for Refugees.

    At the level of the Parliament, the Delegation met the Vice-President of the Senate; the Speaker of the National Assembly;            the Leader of the Opposition and leaders of opposition parties in the Parliament.

    In relation to sectors dealing with the Administration of Justice, the Delegation met with the Acting Chief Justice; the Attorney General and law enforcement agencies Senior Officials including the Deputy Commissioner of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS); and the Commissioner of Lesotho Correctional Service.

    The Delegation met with senior officials of National Independent Institutions, including the Chairperson and Commissioners of the Independent Electoral Commission; the Ombudsman and the Director-General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences.

    The Delegation also held discussions with the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations System in Lesotho.

    The Delegation met and discussed with the Dean of the Faculty of Law of the National University of Lesotho.

    The Delegation equally held discussions with various non-state actors or Civil Society Organisations involved in the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in Lesotho; including the Law Society of Lesotho; the Transformation Resource Center, the Lesotho National Federation of the Disabled; Media Institute for Southern Africa and media Professionals; Maseru Women Senior Citizens Association other Older Persons Organisations; etc.

    The Delegation finally visited and interacted with both the management and inmates at Maseru Central Prison.

    The Delegation acknowledges the relative stability which prevails in the country at the time of its visit as Lesotho has gone through political turmoil throughout the past six years which elapsed between the present visit of the Commission and its last promotion mission in 2012.

    The Delegation commends the People of Lesotho, their authorities and leaders who relentlessly strive to stabilise and reform the country in order to bring and maintain it on the path of a long-lasting peace and democratic environment.

    The Delegation notes with enthusiasm the overall dialogue and reform process initiated with the support of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union and developments partners; including the United Nations.

    The Delegation further notes the following positive developments:

    ·      The implementation of some of the previous recommendations of the Commission; namely:

                                                 i.         The authorisation given by Cabinet to the Army, the Police and the Human Rights Unit within the Ministry of Law and Constitutional Affairs to work on a legislation criminalising torture;

                                                ii.         The submission of a disability bill to the Parliament ;

                                              iii.         The submission to the Parliament of a Bill to amend  the Constitution to ensure that the present discrimination against women in relation to their inability to pass their citizenship to their spouses and children   ceases (the Eight Amendment Bill to the Constitution);

                                              iv.         The passing of the Equality in Marriage Act;

                                               v.          Continuous and intensive efforts to combat the HIV pandemic, including the establishment in 2017 and operationalisation of the National AIDS Commission; and

                                              vi.         The development of literacy programmes to ensure child herders have access to education.

    ·      The commitment to submit all its overdue reports to the Commission in October 2018;

    ·      The ongoing efforts towards the establishment of a national human rights institution for the protection and promotion of human rights;

    ·      Efforts to sustain and support the social and protection facilities existing in the country for vulnerable persons, including vulnerable women, children, and persons with disabilities;

    ·      The intensification of awareness-raising efforts and existing programmes to eradicate the HIV-AIDS pandemic, in particular among the youth, women and other vulnerable groups including sexual minorities groups;

    ·      Efforts to fight against gender based violence and traditional harmful practices such as child marriage;

    ·      On-going efforts in the health and education sectors particularly in the area of primary education which is free and compulsory in principle.

    In spite of these positive aspects, the Delegation is concerned about many challenges, including:

    ·      With regard to the political situation and the national dialogue and reform process, the Delegation is highly concerned that the political parties from the opposition have suspended their participation to the process;

    ·      The Delegation equally notes with concern the constitutional crisis caused by the conflicted relationship between the Judiciary and the Executive which has a negative impact on the smooth functioning of institutions in a democratic society;

    ·      The Delegation is further concerned by persistent allegations of police brutality and reports which purport to demonstrate that torture is being utilised by security forces in the country; 

    ·      Various international Human Rights conventions and Treaties duly ratified by Lesotho are yet to be formally and properly domesticated; this renders problematic their application in the country which applies dualism in its legal system;

    ·      The overdue delay in adopting critical legal frameworks aiming at giving effect to international obligations of Lesotho and particularly some relative to the core recommendations made to Lesotho by the Commission;

    ·      The opinion expressed in many quarters that there is a lack of consultative process in matters pertaining to the carrying out of public affairs on matters of public interest in order to ensure ownership and minimum national consensus;

    ·      Challenges in the administration of justice including inadequate number of judicial personnel, poor conditions of service and the backlog of cases;

    ·      Prisons conditions are yet to be compliant to international standards as the Delegation noted issues of overcrowding and unacceptable remand time (with some inmates having spent more than 7 years on remand);   

    ·      The persistence of traditional and religious influences and patriarchy which hinders efforts to free women and girls from gender prejudices despite the legal framework and policies put in place to ensure gender equality as well as the protection of rights of girls and women;

    ·      The low representation of women in decision making positions;

    ·      High prevalence of HIV pandemic despite the efforts by the Government and developments partners to combat the disease;

    ·      The need to accelerate implementation of programmes for the enjoyment of socio-economic rights by the population particularly in the areas of health, education and employment;

    ·      The need to provide more schools and support for children with special needs nationwide;

    ·      Inadequate funding and support to social and community development programmes.

    The Commission will adopt a comprehensive mission report with detailed recommendations which will be forwarded to the State for comments before publication. Meanwhile, the Delegation would like to make the following preliminary recommendations:

    ·      The People of Lesotho and their leaders should unequivocally and unconditionally engage and participate in the ongoing national dialogue aiming at forging a new democratic and peaceful aura for Lesotho;

    ·      The Government should incorporate the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in all its actions as well as in the legal, policy and institutional reforms which would be initiated as a result of the ongoing national dialogue;

    ·      The Government should take immediate steps to ensure that the Judiciary is independent, effective and efficient, and establish or strengthen all human rights related bodies or institutions to handle allegations of human rights violations reported to the Delegation;

    ·      The Government should immediately release all those under remand who have exceeded the legal remand time and bring prisons facilities and conditions up to the acceptable international standards;

    ·      The Government should submit its overdue periodic reports, in accordance with Article 62 of the Charter and Article 26 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa; and

    ·      The international community and international partners should continue and intensify support to the Government in mobilizing the necessary human, financial, technical and logistical support for the ongoing national dialogue to lead to the necessary reforms, and continue to support on-going efforts to ensure human and peoples’ rights promotion and protection in the country.

    The Delegation wishes to express its gratitude to the Government of The Kingdom of Lesotho for the resources and facilities put at the disposal of the Delegation during the mission, particularly the Ministry of Law and Constitutional Affairs as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, for facilitating the mission and for the constructive dialogue with all stakeholders.

    A press conference was organised at the end of the mission.

    Maseru, 12 October 2018

    For further information, please email:

    au-banjul@africa-union.org

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      Date: 15 October 2018

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