SouthernDefenders and Seinoli Legal Centre Condemn Harassment and Intimidation of HRDs and urges Lesotho authorities to protect fundamental freedoms.
Johannesburg and Maseru|
The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (Southern Defenders) and Seinoli Legal Centre express their grave concern and strong condemnation regarding the recent acts of harassment and intimidation against Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in Lesotho. These incidents were exemplified by the forceful and unlawful confiscation of HRDs’ advocacy placards which carried protest messages, by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) during the official launch of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) Phase 2 on May 23, 2023, in Polihali, Mokhotlong.
The Southern Defenders and Seinoli Legal Centre view these actions as a clear violation of the rights of HRDs to freedom of expression, assembly, and peaceful protest. The LDF has no legal authority to confiscate placards that are not threatening or disruptive. The placards only contained messages that raised the negative effects of the project on the community which include the failure to provide adequate compensation, its negative effects on access to clean drinking water and inadequate consultations. Such conduct by the LDF not only undermines the crucial work carried out by HRDs in protecting and promoting human rights but also erodes the democratic fabric of Lesotho. HRDs play a vital role in any society by advocating for justice, equality, and the respect of fundamental rights. Their efforts contribute to the development of open and inclusive societies, ensuring that the voices of the marginalized and vulnerable are heard. Their rights and freedoms must be safeguarded and respected. They should be able to carry out their vital work without fear of reprisals, harassment, or intimidation.
We strongly condemn any actions that hinder the work of HRDs and undermine their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. These rights are enshrined in section 14 of the Constitution of Lesotho as well as under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Lesotho is a party.
We call upon the authorities in Lesotho to:
- Conduct a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation into the incident, holding those responsible for the unlawful confiscation of HRDs’ advocacy placards accountable for their actions.
- Take immediate steps to guarantee the safety and protection of HRDs in Lesotho, ensuring an environment conducive to their work without fear of reprisals or intimidation.
- Uphold the right to freedom of expression, assembly, and peaceful protest as enshrined in the national laws of Lesotho and international human rights standards.
- Engage in dialogue with HRDs and civil society organizations to address their concerns, promote a culture of respect for human rights, and strengthen the democratic principles of Lesotho.
Southern Defenders and Seinoli Legal Centre stand in solidarity with the HRDs in Lesotho and reiterate our commitment to supporting their important work in defending and promoting human rights. We urge the authorities to take immediate action to address these violations and create an enabling environment where HRDs can continue their vital contributions to society.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Adv. Lepeli Moeketsi. SouthernDefenders Board Member & Program Lawyer at Seinoli Legal Centre, firstname.lastname@example.org (+59964556)