Prison conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening due to gross overcrowding; inmate-on-inmate violence occurred, including rape; there was physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions, medical care, ventilation, lighting, and heat. According to the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS), it had no facilities or staff with specialized training to deal with prisoners with disabilities. They depended on voluntary assistance from other prisoners. Prison buildings lacked ramps, railings, and other measures facilitating physical access for prisoners with disabilities.
Physical Conditions: Men and women, juveniles and adults, and pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners were held separately. According to the Lesotho News Agency, Minister of Justice Mahali Phamotse attributed overcrowding at prisons holding men to high crime rates among the unemployed.
On March 1, authorities completed the release of all military prisoners accused of the 2015 mutiny.
According to the LCS, one inmate died from injuries incurred from fighting between two gangs at Maseru Central Correctional Institution. Eight inmates died of natural causes. In February an inmate was reportedly gang raped at the Leribe Correctional Institution.
Although prisons provided potable water, sanitation was poor in Mokhotlong, Berea, Quthing, and Qacha’s Nek, and facilities generally lacked bedding. Proper ventilation and heating/cooling systems did not exist, and some facilities lacked proper lighting. All prisons had a nurse and a dispensary to attend to minor illnesses, but health care was inadequate. Prisons lacked round-the-clock medical wards; as a result, guards confined sick prisoners to their cells from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Administration: In response to credible allegations of assaults and mistreatment of inmates at the Maseru, Butha Buthe, Qacha’s Nek, and Berea correctional institutions, authorities conducted investigations and took disciplinary measures against three Maseru officers and two Qacha’s Nek officers. Investigation of assault allegations at the Butha Buthe and Berea institutions continued at year’s end.
The Office of the Ombudsman stated it had received no complaints from prisoners during the year; however, prisoners were often unaware they could submit complaints to this office. Additionally, any complaints must go through prison authorities, creating the possibility of retaliation against complainants.
According to the LCS, prisoners and detainees have the right to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions. The LCS referred no complaints to the magistrate court during the year.
Prisoners generally had reasonable access to visitors. According to families of those LDF soldiers detained on allegations of mutiny, however, visit schedules were sometimes changed or limited arbitrarily.
Independent Monitoring: The Crime Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration of Ex-prisoners Organization and benevolent groups made up of principal chiefs, church ministers, representatives of the business community, advocates of the court, and other citizens, visited prisons to provide toiletries, food, and other items. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) periodically visited a group of foreign nationals detained in the country.
Improvements: The LCS reported completion of the renovation of inmate cells at the Maseru Central Correctional Institution. The LCS in cooperation with the Ministry of Health improved prisoner access to antiretroviral and tuberculosis medication during the year.