The small enclave state of Lesotho, with less than 2 million inhabitants, is taking on major proportions for the summit this week of the Southern African Development Community.

Lesotho’s former prime minister, defeated in a national vote, claims to be on a hit list of the current administration. He and other former ministers have taken shelter in South Africa, where he is demanding a SADC fact-finding investigation into allegations that he is targeted to be killed.

“We went to elections with not so good security, and this is the outcome after elections—that security has collapsed,” said former Minister of Gender, Youth and Sports Thesele Maseribane from exile. He cited the example of a high-ranking officer, Lieutenant Colonel Maaparankoe Mahao, who was murdered last June in broad daylight. After the murder, soldiers were allegedly kidnapped and tortured if they appeared to be disloyal to the current army chief.Supporters of the new government say the exiled leaders fled to avoid prosecution for their abuses while in government.

These troubles are creating “a downward spiral” of human rights in the region, say local and international activists.The problem is, said Human Rights senior researcher Dewa Mavhinga, that southern African leaders are borrowing tactics from their West and Central African colleagues. “They’re either ignoring their own laws or changing them to their benefit,” Mavhinga said.

Human rights organizations are also demanding the reinstatement of the SADC Tribunal, which was effectively disbanded last year.

“Reinstatement would provide legal recourse to people seeking justice once they have exhausted legal remedies at the national level,” stated the Coalition for an Effective SADC Tribunal, comprises 19 legal and human rights groups.

The leaders summit in SADC is being held in Botswana, a country surrounded by Namibia to the west, South Africa to the south and Zimbabwe to the east. Also on the agenda is the handover of the rotating SADC chairmanship from President Robert Mugabe to Botswana President Seretse Khama Ian Khama.

The theme of this year’s summit is “Accelerating Industrialisation of SADC Economies Through Transformation of Natural Endowment and Improved Human Capital.”

In addition to Lesotho, Khama will be expected to address rising tensions in Madagascar, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.