Amnesty International (AI) has called for the mutiny charges against 23 members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) to be quashed.
“Wednesday’s release of seven members of the LDF, after almost two years in detention without trial on mutiny charges, is a long overdue step,” said Deprose Muchena, AI’s regional director for Southern Africa, in response to the release on “open arrest” of the final seven LDF members detained since 2015.
“The Southern African Development Community (SADC) commission of inquiry found the mutiny charges against the group of 23 soldiers, including these seven, to be ‘suspect’,” said Muchena.
“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 the suspected perpetrators brought to justice.”
Twenty-three 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 June 25, 2015.
The high court declared their continued detention unlawful and ordered their release on “open arrest” on October 5, 2015, but army officials defied the court order.