February 25, 2016
The Law Society of Upper Canada expresses grave concerns about the harassment and intimidation of lawyers Haae Phoofolo, Christopher Lephuthing, Koili Ndebele, Khotso Nthontho and Tumisang Mosotho in Lesotho.
Haae Phoofolo, Christopher Lephuthing, Koili Ndebele, Khotso Nthontho and Tumisang Mosotho are lawyers representing 23 soldiers accused of plotting a mutiny with ex-army chief Maaparankoe Mahao (who was killed on 25 June 2015).
It has come to our attention that the lawyers are being subjected to harassment and intimidation both inside and outside of the courtroom. Members of the Lesotho Defence Forces have reportedly: denied the lawyers access to their client; threatened the lawyers with physical harm; and carried assault weapons openly in the courtroom. In addition, the lawyers report that they have been followed by members of the Special Forces.
Moreover, reports indicate that the lawyers have recently learned they are on a ‘hit list’, which was published on social media at the end of October 2015. Its authorship is currently unknown. However, two people who were on a similar ‘hit list’ last year were killed shortly after its publication.
February 19, 2016
Lawyer Khotso Nthontho was arrested and released on Friday 12 February 2016 Lawyers representing 23 soldiers accused of mutiny continue to be at risk There is concern for an escalation of threats against the legal community Amsterdam / Vancouver, 19 February 2016 – Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L) and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) are concerned about the arrest of lawyer Khotso Nthontho on 12 February 2016 and the ongoing threats against lawyers in Lesotho. Particularly the lawyers representing 23 soldiers accused of plotting a mutiny seem to be at risk. The arrest and release of lawyer Khotso Nthontho Prominent Lesotho lawyer Khotso Nthontho was arrested in the early evening of 12 February 2016, on allegations of perjury. According to the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) it is understood that these allegations relate to Mr. Nthontho’s representation of some of the soldiers charged with mutiny. An urgent High Court Order was obtained for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Nthontho and he was released under heavy security shortly before midnight on 12 February 2016. While he was under arrest, Mr. Nthontho’s family home in Maseru and personal vehicle appear to have been shot, causing serious damage to both. Mr. Nthontho has been formally charged with perjury on 16 February 2016. The case is remanded to 26 February 2016, at which point the court will determine a hearing date.
public – press statement Khotso Nthontho
January 22, 2016
Friday 22 January is the international Day of the Endangered Lawyer. It is a day in which we draw focus on those in the legal profession who in representing their clients face harassment, persecution, injury and death. Events in the past year have highlighted the gravity of these concerns in Lesotho and Swaziland and how threats to the independence and safety of lawyers and legal profession so often mark a deepening disrespect for the rule of law.
In the early days of a security crisis in Lesotho from May last year, a number of soldiers in the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) were apprehended by members of their own army. Many were “arrested” on their way to work, others were taken away from their homes by masked and un-uniformed armed men, leaving their families with no information on where they had been taken, for what purpose or by whom. With little recourse, they turned to lawyers practicing in Maseru to assist them in moving habeas corpus applications, a legal mechanism to challenge unlawful detention. The manner in which the detained soldiers were eventually brought before court has marked the beginning of many months in Lesotho in which courageous lawyers, who have sought to enforce the law and defend their clients’ rights, have worked under direct threats and intimidation, seeking justice at the barrel of a gun.
December 3, 2015
Six lawyers, who act on behalf of 23 soldiers suspected of plotting a coup, have been harassed both inside and outside the courtroom by the army, the Lesotho Defence Forces (LDF). According to our information, members of the LDF have prevented the lawyers from consulting their clients and have verbally threatened to harm the lawyers. LDF-members carry assault weapons in court, which creates an unsafe and intimidating atmosphere. The lawyers report that they have been followed and monitored by armed special forces. Another lawyer representing the soldiers has fled Lesotho out of fear for his and his family’s safety.
Furthermore, five of the lawyers are also placed on a ‘hit list’ which was distributed in late October via social media. This raises even more concern, especially since two people who were on an earlier ‘hit list’ were killed soon after publication of the list.