Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy with a democratic parliamentary government. Under the constitution, the king is head of state but does not actively participate in political activities. The prime minister is head of government and has executive authority. All major parties accepted the outcome of the February 2015 peaceful, credible, and transparent elections, and the country established its second coalition government. A Southern African Development Community (SADC) facilitation mission negotiated the snap election following clashes in August 2014 that saw then prime minister Thomas Thabane flee the country. The 2015 parliamentary elections gave no political party a majority. Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili, the leader of the Democratic Congress (DC), which won 47 seats in the 120-member parliament, formed a seven-party, 65-seat coalition government. Despite the close election and tense environment, Thabane transferred power peacefully to Mosisili and assumed leadership of the opposition. Thabane and two other opposition leaders fled the country again in May 2015, citing concerns about their safety, and had not returned by year’s end. An opposition boycott of parliament ended in February.
The extent of civilian control over security forces was unclear at year’s end.
In May and June 2015, the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) arrested more than 50 soldiers in connection with an alleged mutiny; 23 faced charges of mutiny or failure to suppress mutiny, and there were credible reports detainees were tortured. On June 25, 2015, LDF members shot and killed their former commander Maaparankoe Mahao in what the LDF characterized as an effort to arrest him in connection with the alleged mutiny. A SADC commission of inquiry was set up to investigate Mahao’s killing and the circumstances that led to it. The commission found that, at a minimum, the LDF used excessive force in its effort to arrest Mahao, that detainees were tortured, that there was little evidence of mutiny, and that it was “doubtful” that Mahao was involved in a mutiny. At year’s end authorities had not tried the 23 soldiers; 15 remained in prison, while the other eight were released on “open arrest,” a status similar to being released on bail. All 23 still faced charges of mutiny or failure to suppress mutiny (capital crimes). The court martial convened to hear the charges against them was delayed several times. Authorities did not arrest or charge anyone in Mahao’s killing, and there was no investigation of the torture of the detainees. The only commission recommendation fully implemented by year’s end was the retirement of LDF Commander Tlali Kamoli, which occurred on December 1.
Torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and punishment by LDF members, police torture, and societal abuse of women and children were the most significant human rights problems in the country.
Other human rights problems included retaliatory killings related to the local accordion music gangs; lengthy pretrial detention; long trial delays; restrictions on media freedom, including detention of journalists, and threats of libel suits and occasional violence against journalists; and official corruption. Societal abuses included stigmatization of persons with disabilities, human trafficking, discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, killing of elderly persons due to allegations of witchcraft, and child labor.
The government did not take steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government, although the army reportedly surrendered two soldiers implicated in a murder without political implications to police. Impunity remained a significant problem.