1. The Committee considered the initial report of the Government of
Lesotho (CCPR/C/81/Add.14) at its 1743rd and 1744th meetings (CCPR/C/SR.1743–1744),
held on 1 April 1999, and adopted the following concluding observations
at its 1747th and 1748th meetings (CCPR/C/SR.1747–1748), held
on 6 April 1999.
2. The Committee welcomes the initial report of Lesotho, which was prepared
in conformity with the Committee's guidelines. The Committee notes that
the report was submitted after a five-year delay, which was explained
by the delegation as being due to the internal disturbances in the State.
The Committee notes that the delegation itself admitted the incompatibility
with the Covenant of some provisions of its Constitution and also of
its legislation and practices.
3. The Committee welcomes the establishment of an ombudsman under the
Constitution. The Committee notes that the State party has started courses
for training of police officers, prison officers and magistrates in
4. The Committee welcomes the fact that only the police have the power
to arrest and that the security forces have been stripped of this power
5. The Committee welcomes the establishment of a Commission of Enquiry
into the Conduct and Results of the Lesotho General Elections held in
May 1998, and takes note of the establishment of an Interim Political
Authority in October 1998 with the object of facilitating and promoting,
in conjunction with legislative and executive structures in Lesotho,
the preparations for the holding of general elections within a period
of 18 months.
areas of concern and recommendations
6. The Committee is seriously concerned that section 18 (4) (a) (b)
and (c) of the Constitution allows for the application of legislation
and laws, including customary laws, which are discriminatory and incompatible
with articles 2 (paragraph 1), 3, 23 and 26 of the Covenant.
7. The Committee is also concerned that sections 7 (3) (f) and (6);
14 (2) (c); 15 (2) (c); and 16 (2) (c) of the Constitution allow for
the imposition of restrictions on the rights protected by articles 12
(freedom of movement), 19 (freedom of expression), 21 (peaceful assembly)
and 22 (freedom of association) which exceed those permitted by the
8. The Committee is further concerned that sections 12 (11) (a) and
(13) of the Constitution may raise issues of compatibility with article
14, paragraphs 2 and 3 (d), of the Covenant and that section 21 (1)
of the Constitution may authorize derogation of rights, which is incompatible
with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Covenant.
9. The Committee recommends that the State party take measures to bring
all its laws into full conformity with the Covenant.
10. The Committee is gravely concerned that both common and customary
law permit discrimination against women by treating them as minors.
The Committee notes with concern that, under customary law, inheritance
and property rights of women are severely restricted and that under
customary law as well as under common law women may not enter into contracts,
open bank accounts, obtain loans or apply for passports without the
permission of their husbands. The Committee welcomes the statement of
the delegation that these rules are not commonly being applied in practice.
The Committee, however, urges the State party to take measures to repeal
or amend these discriminatory laws and eradicate these discriminatory
practices, which are in violation of articles 3 and 26 of the Covenant.
11. The Committee is concerned that the law in force in Lesotho makes
abortion illegal except in cases where the woman concerned is of unsound
mind or the conception is the result of rape or incestuous intercourse.
The Committee recommends the State party to review the law of abortion
to provide for situations where the life of the woman is in danger.
12. The Committee expresses its grave concern about the fact that the
practice of female genital mutilation appears to continue to exist in
parts of Lesotho, as noted in the report of the Special Rapporteur on
Violence against Women. The Committee calls for the eradication of this
practice, which is contrary to human dignity and violates various human
rights, including the right to life (article 6) and the right to protection
against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (article 7), and recommends
that the practice be made punishable under law and that educational
programmes be undertaken in this regard.
13. The Committee notes with concern that a sexual relationship between
consenting adult partners of the same sex is punishable under law. The
Committee recommends that the State party amend the law in this respect.
14. The Committee is concerned about the continuing influence of the
military in civilian matters and in particular about the climate of
impunity for crimes and abuses of authority committed by members of
the military. The Committee strongly urges that measures be taken by
the State party to ensure the primacy of civil and political authority.
15. The Committee notes the statement by the delegation that capital
punishment is no longer carried out in practice and recommends its early
16. The Committee notes with concern that there are fairly numerous
instances of torture of persons in custody. The Committee strongly urges
the State party to establish an independent authority consisting of
respected civilians for receiving and investigating complaints of torture
and ill-treatment, giving redress to the victims and prosecuting those
responsible for such torture and ill-treatment.
17. The Committee is concerned about the excessive use of force by the
police and security forces, including shooting of suspects to prevent
their flight even in cases where there is no violence on the part of
the suspects. The Committee urges the State party to investigate such
cases and ensure the prosecution and punishment of those responsible.
Impunity for violation of human rights is incompatible with the State
party's obligation under article 2, paragraph 3, of the Covenant.
18. With regard to pretrial detention the Committee is concerned about
the detention of suspects for periods longer than 48 hours before they
are brought before a magistrate. In particular it notes with concern
that the officers who were involved in the mutiny of 1994 were held
for many months before commencement of court martial proceedings and
so also were the junior officers involved in the mutiny of 1998. The
Committee recommends that the State party take firm action to enforce
compliance with its own legislative provision limiting pretrial detention
to 48 hours before appearance before a magistrate.
19. The Committee is concerned that no action has so far been taken
to prosecute law enforcement officers and members of the private security
agency responsible for the killings in Butha-buthe in 1995. The Committee
recommends to the State party to take the necessary action against those
20. The Committee expresses concern about the treatment of detainees
in contravention of articles 7 and 10 of the Covenant. While it notes
the statement by the delegation that corporal punishment has been abolished,
it observes with concern that the State party report indicates that
corporal punishment is still being practised, provided that medical
doctors are present. The Committee urges the State party to take the
necessary measures to improve prison conditions and to abolish totally
corporal punishment both in law and in practice.
21. The Committee notes that the State party has through a Cabinet decision
dated 23 November 1995 provided for permanent and pensionable status
for judges. The Committee, however, recommends that this decision be
implemented through appropriate legislation.
22. The Committee is seriously concerned about reports of harassment
of and repeated libel suits against journalists who criticize the Government
of Lesotho. The Committee is also gravely concerned about the reports
received by the Committee that newspapers which adopt a negative attitude
against the Government are refused advertisement by the State and parastatal
companies, and that journalists working for the State who are seen at
the opposition demonstrations are required to submit their resignations.
The Committee urges the State party to respect freedom of the press
and desist from taking any action which would violate the freedom of
23. The Committee is concerned that the relevant authority under the
Printing and Publishing Act has unfettered discretionary power to grant
or to refuse registration to a newspaper, in contravention of article
19 of the Covenant. The Committee recommends to the State party to provide
for guidelines for the exercise of discretion and procedures for effective
review of the validity of the grounds for refusal of registration and
to bring its legislation into conformity with article 19 of the Covenant.
24. The Committee is concerned that the National Security Service and
other security agencies are given the power to intercept mail and tap
telephones without any safeguards and without any possibility of review
of the decision of the Authority. The Committee urges the State party
to provide safeguards for the exercise of the power to intercept mail
and tap telephones, with independent supervision.
25. The Committee is concerned that, although there is improvement in
the participation of women in the public and private sectors, the participation
of women is still inadequate. The Committee urges the State party to
take the measures needed, including, if necessary, affirmative action
to further improve the participation of women in political life as well
as public life, including public and judicial services.
26. The Committee sets the date for the submission of Lesotho's periodic
report as April 2002. It urges the State party to make available to
the public the text of the State party's initial report and the present
concluding observations. It requests that the next periodic report be
widely disseminated among the public, including non-governmental organizations
operating in Lesotho.