Africa-Press – Lesotho. CHIEF Justice Sakoane Sakoane and army boss Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela have questioned the wisdom of using foreign judges in Lesotho’s courts.
Speaking at an indaba organised by the National Reforms Authority (NRA) on Tuesday, Justice Sakoane said back in the 1960’s when Lesotho still a young democracy it needed support from outside judges due to lack of resources.
Justice Sakoane, who spoke after the LDF commander, said the army was not happy to see the Martial Appeal Courts being presided over by foreign judges.
He said he wants the NRA to look into this matter during the reforms process. Justice Sakoane said he wants to see high-ranking judges from Lesotho presiding over important matters.
“The sovereign judicial power belongs to the (local) people,” Justice Sakoane said. He said if Basotho want their courts to be presided over by foreigners, they should carry on.
Lieutenant General Letsoela pleaded with the NRA to ensure that the Martial Appeal Court is presided by a Lesotho citizen rather than a foreigner. The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) boss said the old writings show that justice is one of the important pillars in every country.
He said the Constitution clearly states that the duty of the army is to protect the country. He said after spending three years in office, he has realised that justice in the army is meant to meet specific needs of the military environment.
Lt Gen Letsoela said military issues need to be interpreted by them and the natives of Lesotho. “We plead that the Martial Appeal Court should be in the hands of Basotho so that when the blood spills it affects them too,” he said.
“It should not be someone from the outside.
” Lt Gen Letsoela said the LDF pays their allegiance to the State and the Constitution of Lesotho which is equal to sovereignty and independence.
He said it would not be right for it to be interpreted by foreigners. Lt Gen Letsoela said anyone who heads the Martial Appeal Court must at least know what is happening in the LDF.
Justice Sakoane said he came with his team because their job is to listen and judge cases brought to them by the public or executive. He said they follow evidence and the law only.
He said he came with Lt Gen Letsoela to the meeting as the Constitution talks about military justice too. He said there are Court Martial and the Martial Appeal Court.
Justice Sakoane said he once paid a visit to the NRA offices where the NRA chairman talked to him about the progress of the reforms. That triggered him to have a meeting with the NRA.
It was at that meeting where Justice Sakoane revealed that the nation is not happy with the services from the courts including the delay of judgements.
He said Lesotho became independent in 1966 and adopted the western type of governance to deliver justice as they formed the magistrates’ court, High Court and the Court of Appeal.
And there are also Local Courts where Basotho go to resolve their local issues. Justice Sakoane said the magistrate courts are mostly situated in towns while the High Court and the Appeal Court are only found in Maseru.
“One could say the courts were made to serve the urban centres,” he said. He said if the courts are to be reformed, people must understand that justice is expensive.
He said justice seems far from Basotho as they have to seek bus fare and lawyers’ fees to access it. Now witnesses find it difficult to do their duties as they are not catered for by the courts.
Justice Sakoane said accommodation and transport to courts are supposed to be settled by the courts. Justice Sakoane said they have handed over their report to the government regarding primary courts and their needs.
He said they are still puzzled how the budgets are being done in Lesotho when it comes to courts. He said political cases cause a lot of troubles in the courts.
“Why can’t they have an alternative mechanism to solve their issues?” Justice Sakoane asked. Judge Molefi Makara said it is crucial that Basotho understand the courts and how they operate.
A member of NRA ’Mota Thelingoane said foreign judges are often sourced to listen to big cases and cases that local judges are not trusted with. Thelingoane said sometimes the judges are not fair.