Lesotho - Overview

Civil society in Lesotho works in a climate of considerable political instability. Recent years saw an attempted coup in 2014, the killing of a prominent military leader by other military personnel in 2015, and the fleeing of leading opposition figures to neighbouring South Africa and opposition boycotts of parliament in 2015. There are tensions between the police and military forces, and continuing high military power presents an obstacle to improving governance, along with weak mechanisms for citizens to hold parliament and political institutions to account. Both military and police forces have been implicated in political killings, abductions, torture, attacks and intimidation. Impunity is a further challenge. LGBTI people experience widespread exclusion and the risk of violence. There are also concerns about judicial independence, with the King and prime minister playing an excessive role in the appointment of judges. Civil society has called for a national human rights institution to be instigated, not least so that reports of torture can be adequately investigated, but Lesotho continues to lack one, although a Bill to introduce such a body was approved by the Attorney General in 2014. An ombudsperson office exists, but it is weak; for example, its mandate excludes cabinet decisions. Civil society has also reported it has limited opportunities to engage with parliament.