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Title: Lesotho Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996


Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy.  Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle of 
the Basotholand Congress Party (BCP) is the Head of Government.  Since 
winning free and fair elections in 1993, the BCP has controlled the 
Government and Parliament.  Under the 1993 Constitution, the King has no 
executive authority.  In 1994 King Letsie III unconstitutionally 
suspended Parliament and installed a Ruling Council.  Local and 
international pressure led to a rapid return of constitutional 

The security forces consist of the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF), the 
Lesotho Mounted Police (LMP), and the National Security Service (NSS).  
The three services are under the control of the Defense Commission 
comprised of the Prime Minister, the LDF Commander, Deputy LDF 
Commander, LMP Commissioner, Deputy LMP Commissioner, and Director of 
the NSS.  However, the Commission is independent of Parliament, and the 
civil Government exerts little control over the security forces.  
Although there were fewer disturbances and human rights abuses than in 
1994, security forces continued arbitrarily to detain and harass 
government officials.  Some police personnel engaged in looting during a 
May salary dispute.  The BCP Government took no action to punish the 
offenders in these incidents or in the more extensive disturbances of 

A landlocked country surrounded by South Africa, Lesotho is almost 
entirely dependent on its sole neighbor for trade, finance, employment, 
and access to the outside world.  A large proportion of the adult male 
work force is employed in South African mines; miners' remittances 
account for around 40 percent of the gross national product (GNP).  Real 
gross domestic product grew an estimated 7.5 percent during 1995 with 
inflation predicted at less than 8 percent.  Per capita GNP was 
approximately $690.  State-owned organizations predominate in the agro-
industrial and agribusiness sectors, but private sector activity 
dominates in manufacturing and construction.  Under Lesotho's 
traditional chieftainship structure, land is controlled by the chiefs 
and owned by the Kingdom, precluding private ownership of land.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; 
however, there continued to be problems in some areas.  Lack of 
discipline in the security forces led to continued arbitrary detentions 
and harassment.  The Government acknowledged that a number of pre-
existing laws were inconsistent with human rights provisions of the new 
Constitution but did not act to repeal the laws.  For example, the legal 
provisions that allowed for lengthy detention without trial continued in 
force.  The authorities did not investigate or prosecute anyone for 
extrajudicial killings and brutality committed in previous years.  
Women's rights continued to be severely restricted, and violence against 
women remained widespread.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 

  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

In August a student at the National University, Edward Fobo, was shot 
and killed allegedly by a member of the LDF and others.  A soldier and a 
civilian have been arrested while the Government investigates this 
incident which does not appear to have been politically motivated.  
However, the authorities did not investigate or prosecute any security 
officials for the extrajudicial or summary killings committed during the 
political unrest of 1994.  They also failed to investigate 1994 reports 
of police brutality, as well as pre-1994 reports of deaths in police 
custody of a number of unionists and criminal suspects.

  b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

  c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 

In March the President of the Lesotho Law Society, K. Thabang Khauoe, 
was detained and physically abused by members of the LMP.  Khauoe had 
legally challenged the restoration of King Moshoeshoe II.  Moreover, the 
Government did not investigate the numerous incidents that occurred in 
1994 and previous years.

In general, prison facilities in Lesotho are overcrowded and in 
disrepair but do not threaten the health or lives of inmates.  
Conditions are not monitored independently.  

  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Members of the NSS arbitrarily detained cabinet members and other senior 
government officials.  In June then Foreign Minister Mpho Malie was 
forced out of his car and obliged to walk home by persons believed to 
work for the NSS.  Then Foreign Ministry Principal Secretary Nthabiseng 
Monoko also reported being interrogated and having her car temporarily 
confiscated by NSS personnel.  NSS officials also reportedly detained 
and harassed a number of other lower level government officials.

In general, pretrial detainees constitute a significant portion of total 
prison population; up to one-half in some locations.  Because of 
backlogs, pretrial remand can last several years.

Persons detained or arrested in criminal cases, and defendants in civil 
cases, have the right to legal counsel.  The 1981 Criminal Procedures 
and Evidence Act, as amended in 1984, makes provision for the granting 
of bail.  Bail is granted regularly and generally fairly.

Although the Government acknowledged that the Internal Security Act 
(ISA) of 1984 is partly inconsistent with the new Constitution, the ISA 
remains in force.  The ISA provides for so-called investigative 
detention without charge or trial in political cases for up to 42 days 
(the first 14 days on order of the police; the second 14 days on order 
of the Police Commissioner; and the final 14 days on order of the 
Minister of Defense--a portfolio now held by the Prime Minister).  A 
political case involves "subversion," a term loosely defined in the ISA 
to include "any act or thing prejudicial to public order, the security 
of Lesotho, or the administration of justice."  The Act also allows for 
detention of witnesses in security cases and permits the Minister of 
Defense to "restrict" a person who, in the opinion of the Police 
Commissioner, is acting in a manner prejudicial to public order, 
security, or the administration of justice.

There were no known restrictions or detentions under the Act; legal 
professionals held that any such attempt to detain persons would 
promptly be declared unconstitutional by the High Court.  There were no 
known political detainees.  

  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary consists of the Court of Appeal (which meets 
semiannually), the High Court, magistrate's courts, and customary or 
traditional courts, which exist largely in rural areas to administer 
customary law.  The High Court Chief Justice's decision in 1994 to swear 
in a provisional Ruling Council, in defiance of the Constitution, raised 
new questions about the independence of the judiciary.  In particular, 
magistrates appear susceptible to governmental or chieftainship 
influence.  Accused persons have and use the right to counsel and public 
trial.  The authorities generally respect court decisions and rulings.

There is no trial by jury.  Criminal trials are normally adjudicated by 
a single High Court judge who presides, with two assessors serving in an 
advisory capacity.  In civil cases, judges normally hear cases alone.  
The High Court also provides procedural and substantive advice and 
guidance on matters of legal procedure to military tribunals; however, 
it does not participate in arriving at judgments.  Military tribunals 
have jurisdiction only over military cases, and their decisions may not 
be appealed.  Lesotho's law and custom severely limit the rights of 
women (see Section 5), but court treatment of women is not 

There were no trials for political offenses.  There were no reports of 
political prisoners.  

  f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

Although search warrants are usually required under normal 
circumstances, the ISA provides police with wide powers to stop and 
search persons and vehicles and to enter homes and other places for 
similar purposes without a warrant.  The security services are believed 
to monitor routinely telephone conversations of Basotho and foreigners 
on national security grounds.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for these rights, which are generally 
respected in practice.  The independent newspapers, including one each 
controlled by the Roman Catholic and Lesotho Evangelical churches, and 
two English-language weeklies, routinely criticize the Government.  The 
official media, which consist of one radio station, a 1-hour daily 
newscast on a local television channel, and two weekly newspapers, 
faithfully reflect official positions.

  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Under a mid-1993 revision of the ISA, a public meeting, rally, or march 
no longer requires prior police permission, only advance notification.  
However, police or local authorities repeatedly interfered with this 
right.  In August, for example, police turned away striking teachers who 
were attempting to march through downtown Maseru.

The Government did not investigate or prosecute any of the security 
personnel who killed and wounded several protestors at a peaceful 1994 
progovernment demonstration.

In addition to the BCP and the Basotholand National Party (BNP), there 
are several smaller political parties.  Political party meetings and 
rallies occurred regularly throughout Lesotho.  There are no 
restrictions on political parties.

  c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and the Government 
respects this right in practice.  

  d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens generally are able to move freely within the country and across 
national boundaries.  The Government places no obstacles in the way of 
citizens who wish to emigrate.

In 1994 the Government allowed about 25 refugees to register with the 
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to study in Lesotho.  They 
were expected to return to their countries of first asylum after 
completing their studies.  Other than these students, Lesotho has no 
resident refugee population.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  the Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government

In the first multiparty democratic elections in over 20 years, the BCP 
swept into power in 1993 with complete control of the Parliament.  
Despite the landslide electoral victory, the BCP Government was forced 
to contend with a number of challenges to its power in 1994.  Those 
challenges culminated in August when King Letsie III unconstitutionally 
suspended the Parliament and installed a Ruling Council.  Many Basotho 
responded by demonstrating their support for the democratically elected 
BCP Government.  Organized labor and others held two national 
"stayaways" to demonstrate support for the ousted Government, and there 
were numerous rallies at the National University.  As a result of both 
local and international pressure, the King soon reversed himself, and 
the BCP regained control of the Government.  The Memorandum of 
Understanding between King Letsie III and Prime Minister Mokhehle, which 
was brokered by South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, called for the 
reinstatement of the King's father, Moshoeshoe II, who had been deposed 
by the previous military government and exiled in 1990, in addition to 
steps to broaden Lesotho's political process.  Early in 1995, Moshoeshoe 
II was returned to the throne.

The 1994 suspension of the Constitution, although short-lived, 
highlighted the fragility of constitutional rule.  

There are no legal impediments to women's participation in government or 
politics, but women remained underrepresented.  There is one woman in 
the Cabinet, the Minister of Natural Resources.  There are 2 other women 
in the 65-member Assembly and 7 women in the 33-member Senate.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

The Government did not hinder the activities of various nongovernmental 
human rights groups.  These groups freely criticized both the Government 
and the short-lived Ruling 

Council.  The Government was cooperative during an Amnesty International 

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, 
Disability, or Social Status

The 1993 Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, color, 
sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social 
origin, birth or other status, and the Government generally respected 
these prohibitions in practice.  


Domestic violence, including wife beating, occurs frequently.  
Statistics are not available, but the problem is believed widespread.  
In Basotho tradition a wife may return to her "maiden home" if 
physically abused by her husband; in common law, wife beating is a 
criminal offense and defined as assault.  Few domestic violence cases 
are brought to trial.  Women's rights organizations, such as the local 
chapter of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, have taken a 
leading role in educating Basotho women as to their rights under 
customary and common law, highlighting the importance of women fully 
participating in the democratic process.

Both law and custom severely limit the rights of women in such areas as 
property, inheritance, and contracts.  Women have the legal and 
customary right to make a will and sue for divorce.  However, under 
customary law, a married woman is considered a minor during the lifetime 
of her husband; she cannot enter into any legally binding contract, 
whether for employment, commerce, or education, without her husband's 
consent.  A woman married under customary law has no standing in court 
and may not sue or be sued without her husband's permission.  Senior 
government officials have publicly criticized customary practice which 
discriminates against women.  The Government has committed to implement 
the plan of action from the Fourth International Conference on Women, 
held in Beijing in September.


The government has not addressed directly children's rights and welfare, 
although it has devoted substantial resources to primary and secondary 
education.  There is no pattern of societal abuse against children, but 
many children work at a young age (see Section 6.d.).

  People with Disabilities

The Government has not legislated or mandated accessibility to public 
buildings for the handicapped.

Discrimination against physically disabled persons in employment, 
education, or provision of other government services is unlawful.  
However, societal discrimination is commonplace.

  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Most citizens speak a common language and share common historical and 
cultural traditions.  Small numbers of Asians (primarily ethnic Chinese 
and Indians) and South African whites are active in the country's 
commercial life.  Economic and racial tension between the Chinese 
business community, specifically textile and garment industry employers, 
and the Basotho remained a problem.

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

Workers have the legal right to join or form unions without prior 
government authorization.  A large percentage of the male labor force 
works in South African gold and coal mines.  The remainder are primarily 
engaged in traditional agriculture.  There are small public and 
industrial sectors.  A majority of Basotho mineworkers are members of 
the South African National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).  However, as a 
foreign organization, the NUM is not permitted to engage in union 
activities in Lesotho.

Under the 1993 Labor Code, prepared with the assistance of the 
International Labor Organization (ILO), all trade union federations 
require government registration.  There are two trade union federations:  
the Lesotho Trade Union Congress (LTUC) and the Lesotho Federation of 
Democratic Unions (LFDU).  The Government registered neither federation 
but made no attempt to inhibit their activities.  Unions are not tied to 
political parties.  Overall, unionized workers represent only about 10 
percent of the total work force.

No legally sanctioned strike has occurred since independence in 1966.  
Legal protection for strikers against retribution has not been enforced 
in cases of illegal strikes.  Employers dismissed several hundred 
workers in the textile industry following wildcat strikes in 1994, and 
the Government maintained it could not oblige their employers to 
reinstate them.  Security forces violently suppressed some of the 
strikes in the textile, garment, and construction sectors during 1994.

There were no instances of governmental restrictions on international 
affiliations or contacts by unions or their members.

  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

All legally recognized trade unions in principle enjoy the legal right 
to organize and bargain collectively, but in practice the authorities 
often restrict these rights.  Although there was some bargaining between 
unions and employers to set wage and benefit rates, employers generally 
continued to set wage rates through unilateral action.  For example, the 
Government unilaterally rescinded a pay increase granted to teachers 
early in 1995.

Lesotho has several industrial zones, in which mostly textile and 
apparel firms engage in manufacturing for export.  All national labor 
laws apply in these industrial zones.

  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The 1987 Employment Act prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and there 
is no indication that such labor is practiced.

  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The legal minimum age for employment in commercial or industrial 
enterprises is 14.  In practice, however, children under 14 are often 
employed in the textile and garment sector and in family-owned 
businesses.  As much as 15 percent of the textile work force of some 
15,000 may be children between the ages of 12 and 15, according to a 
1994 U.S. Department of Labor study.  There are prohibitions against the 
employment of minors in commercial, industrial, or nonfamily enterprises 
involving hazardous or dangerous working conditions, but enforcement is 
very lax.  The Ministry of Labor and Employment's Inspectorate is 
grossly understaffed.  Basotho under 18 years of age may not be 
recruited for employment outside of Lesotho.  In Lesotho's traditional 
society, rigorous working conditions for the country's young "herdboys" 
are considered a prerequisite to manhood and a fundamental feature of 
Basotho culture beyond the reach of labor laws.

  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wages are low.  Statutory monthly minimum wages in the established 
categories range from the equivalent of $80 (294 maloti) for an 
unskilled laborer to $154 (565 maloti) for a heavy vehicle driver.  At 
the low end, minimum wages are insufficient to ensure a minimum decent 
standard of living for a worker and family.  Most wage earners 
supplement their income through subsistence agriculture or remittances 
from relatives employed in South Africa.  Many employers in Lesotho now 
pay more than minimum wages in an effort to attract and retain motivated 

The 1993 Labor Code spells out basic worker rights, including a 45-hour 
workweek, a weekly rest period of at least 24 hours, 12 days' paid leave 
per year, and paid public holidays.  The Code requires employers to 
provide adequate light, ventilation, and sanitary facilities for 
employees and to install and maintain machinery to minimize the risk of 
injury.  In practice, employers generally follow these regulations only 
within the wage economy in urban areas, and the Ministry of Labor and 
Employment enforces the regulations haphazardly.  The Labor Code does 
not explicitly protect the right of workers to remove themselves from 
hazardous situations without prejudice to employment.  But Labor Code 
sections on safety in the workplace, and dismissal, imply that dismissal 
in such circumstances would not be legal.


[end of document]


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