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Authorities must ensure that the criminal investigation into the killing of Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) is thorough and pursued vigorously without undue delay, said Amnesty International today on the first anniversary of his unlawful killing.

The organisation believes that those suspected of responsibility must be suspended during the investigation and ensuing criminal proceedings.

Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili announced on 20 June 2016 in Parliament that a criminal investigation into Mahao’s killing is underway.

He was responding to the report of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Commission of Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao, which made a recommendation along these lines several months ago. The SADC inquiry report also recommended that the current LDF Commander, Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli be relieved of his duties.

“The soldiers who shot Maaparankoe Mahao are known by the senior army commanders of the LDF. Authorities must ensure that the criminal investigation is thorough, effective and impartial and identifies those with criminal responsibility for his killing, and must ensure that they are prosecuted in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.

“A year after Mahao’s killing, the perpetrators are still enjoying impunity. Failure to take action against those who killed him will further entrench a culture of impunity for human rights violations in the country.”

The SADC Commission of Inquiry has made four main recommendations.

These include that the government of Lesotho should ensure that the criminal investigation on the death of Lieutenant-GeneralMahao be pursued vigorously and expeditiously and Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli is relieved of his duties as commander of the LDF and all LDF officers implicated in cases of murder, attempted murder and treason be suspended while investigations into their cases proceed in line with international best practice.

“One year later, Lieutenant-General Mahao’s family is still waiting for answers for the brutal killing of their father, husband and sibling. They do not know why his life was taken away,” said Deprose Muchena. 

“Prime Minister Mosisili must ensure that justice prevails.”

Background

Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao was killed on 25 June 2015 by members of LDF who claimed that he was resisting arrest outside Maseru.

However, the (SADC) Commission of Inquiry report into his killing, which was tabled in Parliament on 8 February, found that he had not resisted arrest and his death involved excessive use of force.

He was accused of leading a number of soldiers in a mutiny plot.

The SADC report has also dismissed mutiny claims, finding that “the involvement of Lieutenant-General Mahao on the alleged mutiny plot remains doubtful as there was no evidence to prove his involvement.”

Dozens of soldiers were arrested in connection with the alleged mutiny and 16 of them are still detained at the Maseru Maximum security prison.