Lesotho’s lack of financial resources obstructs the implementation of human rights
Published on 18 Jul 2023, 01:42 PM
The Human Rights Committee reviewed Lesotho on 11 and 12 July 2023
Lesotho is a mountainous landlocked country, surrounded by South Africa. It was colonized by the British, and is independent since 1966 as a constitutional monarchy. From the dialogue, it became clear that the major issue in the kingdom is a financial one. The delegation referred to this on multiple occasions during the dialogue, and said that financial assistance would go a long way in Lesotho. The dialogue was frank and honest: the delegation admitted that current efforts are not always sufficient, but it showed its intention to do better in the future.
Equality between men and women remains a concern
The Committee was concerned about discrimination of women in Lesotho, specifically related to the legal capacity of married persons. Widows should be protected against the fact that the male child is the sole heir, and they should be able to inherit property of their deceased husband. According to the delegation, there is no longer an issue of a legal difference, since that law has been changed. It is an unwillingness on the part of the population to change cultural practices: “It is women themselves who perpetuate the practices despite knowledge of their rights”, said the delegation. More generally, culture still dictates that women are the primary care takers. Moreover, there are still legal differences between marriages under customary law and positive law.
Violence against women and a lack of reporting was another concern of the Committee. There are reports of forced HIV testing and forced sterilisations of HIV positive women, according to civil society. Government denied that, and said that there were no formal reported cases. They stressed that no one is forced to undergo HIV testing, besides the mandatory HIV test for pregnant persons to protect the unborn child. The State also said that it took measures to popularize laws through media and public gatherings, and is collaborating with NGOs to encourage people to report cases of GBV. Some NGOs provide legal aid free of charge. According to the delegation, there are no longer reports of Female Genital Mutilation.
The Committee also had questions about access to abortion and witchcraft. The delegation replied that the latter has declined over the years, thanks to education and awareness raising about dementia. Unfortunately, on both topics, the delegation could not provide any statistics.
Death penalty: a referendum planned
Lesotho is planning to organize a referendum on the death penalty, because this process should start with the citizens in a bottom-up approach. The delegation stressed that, in practice, there is no death penalty and no inmates are currently on death row. This is because the High Court still imposes capital punishment, but “it is a given that once appealed, the Court of Appeal will without hesitation commute it to a life sentence”. The Committee found this encouraging, but was wondering about the official position of the government, even if a referendum were to take place. Lesotho has a very high rate of murders and a lack of accountability because court decisions take very long, so one might wonder whether the death penalty has a deterrent effect after all.
Adoption of the Omnibus bill
Lesotho has committed to vast reforms, both legislative and institutional, including through the so-called Omnibus Constitutional Bill. However, this Bill covers a large amount of topics and the adoption process has been challenging. The new government, in place since October 2022, has committed to its adoption, but results remain to be seen. The Committee had questions about any future attempts to adopt the Bill, or to split it so that adoption would be simpler, but in May 2023, the government announced that its intent to split the Bill into three separate bills, failed. The matter is still pending.
Watch again the dialogue with the Committee here (part one) and here (part two).
Recommendations of the Human Rights Committee
Concluding Observations on the Lesotho's second periodic report were released on 27 July 2023. The State party is requested to provide, by July 2026, information on the implementation of the following recommendations:
National Human Rights Institution
The State party should fast track enactment of the law creating the Human Rights Commission and ensure its full compliance with the Paris principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights. The State party should provide adequate human and financial resources to the Commission and to the Ombudsman’s office so they can carry out their functions effectively.
Prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and treatment of persons deprived of their liberty
The State party should take urgent measures necessary to eradicate torture and ill-treatment, including:
- (a) Urgently adopt legislation that defines torture, including revising art. 32 of the Penal Code to ensure that it is fully compliant with article 1 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and with article 7 of the Covenant;
- (b) Considering ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on the prevention of torture.
Here you can find all the recommendations given by the Committee in the Concluding Observations.
The follow-up report of Lesotho on the implementation of the recommendations is due in 2026. The next list of issues will be adopted in 2029, and the next periodic report is due in 2030.