The Law Society of Upper Canada expresses grave concerns about the harassment and intimidation of lawyers in Lesotho

TORONTO, Feb. 26, 2016 /CNW/ - The Law Society of Upper Canada expresses grave concerns about the harassment and intimidation of lawyers Haae Phoofolo, Christopher Lephuthing, Koili Ndebele, Khotso Nthontho and Tumisang Mosotho in Lesotho.

Haae Phoofolo, Christopher Lephuthing, Koili Ndebele, Khotso Nthontho and Tumisang Mosotho are lawyers representing 23 soldiers accused of plotting a mutiny with ex-army chief Maaparankoe Mahao (who was killed on 25 June 2015).

It has come to our attention that the lawyers are being subjected to harassment and intimidation both inside and outside of the courtroom. Members of the Lesotho Defence Forces have reportedly: denied the lawyers access to their client; threatened the lawyers with physical harm; and carried assault weapons openly in the courtroom. In addition, the lawyers report that they have been followed by members of the Special Forces.

Moreover, reports indicate that the lawyers have recently learned they are on a 'hit list', which was published on social media at the end of October 2015. Its authorship is currently unknown. However, two people who were on a similar 'hit list' last year were killed shortly after its publication.

The Law Society has received reports that Khotso Nthontho was arrested on 12 February 2016 on allegation of committing perjury. After his release later that same day, he returned home to find that his house and car had been fired upon. Extensive damage was done to both.

Human rights organizations believe that these lawyers have been harassed and intimated because of their legitimate legal work.

The Law Society of Upper Canada urges the government of Lesotho to consider Articles 16 and 23 of the United Nations' Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers

Article 16 states:

Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.

Moreover, Article 23 states:

Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization.

The Law Society urges the government of Lesotho to:

a.      

put an end to all acts of harassment against Haae Phoofolo, Christopher Lephuthing, Koili Ndebele, Khotso Nthontho and Tumisang Mosotho as well as other human rights lawyers and defenders in Lesotho;



b.         

guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of these lawyers;



c.         

ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments; and



d.      

carry out an investigation as soon as possible into the 'hit list' and other threats against these lawyers.

*The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for more than 49,000 lawyers and 7,900 paralegals in the province of Ontario, Canada. The Treasurer is the head of the Law Society. The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.

SOURCE The Law Society of Upper Canada

For further information: please contact Susan Tonkin, Communications Advisor - Media Relations, at 416-947-7605 or stonkin@lsuc.on.ca; The Law Society of Upper Canada, Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON, M5H 2N6, www.lsuc.on.ca, Follow us on Twitter @LawsocietyLSUC

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