Saturday, September 26, 2020

African Commission exposes Botswana’s attempt to cover up human rights violations

BY KHONANI ONTEBETSE

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights has accused Botswana government of airbrushing its human rights report in a bid to present a beautiful picture to the world.

Botswana government found itself with an egg on the face after it was caught out trying to sanitise its human rights record by editing out cases of extra judicial killings by the country’s security agents.
 
Chairperson of the Working Group on Death Penalty and Extrajudicial for ACHPR Sylvie Kayitesi called Botswana out last week for trying to hide extra judicial killings and use of force by security agents.

 “…With regard to issues relating to extra judicial killings, we noted that the report is silent on those matters, we would like the delegation (from Botswana Government) to provide information relating to this and also provide information relating to use of force and death in prisons or death that can occur under their supervision or with the knowledge agency or in connivance with security agents,” she said.

Kayitesi who is a lawyer by profession noted that among the instruments that Botswana ratified include the international convension on false disappearances.

“We would like to know if there are any measures put in place to ratify that instrument. We have been informed that in the national legislation there are provisions that allow use of legal force in cases of escaped prisoners and we would like to know what measures are in place (to protect the rights of escaped prisoners,” she said.

Kayitesi further pointed out that the report by Botswana government mentioned that the country had not decided on the issue of death penalty and neither has it imposed a moratorium on death penalty.

“In the second cycle of universal examination in 2010, Botswana had initiated a public discourse, and promised that as soon as the formalities are finalized Botswana would ask the working group of the commission on death penalty to make their input,” she said. 

Kayitesi added that “We would like to commend you for this declaration in the report despite the fact that there have been executions of those on death row after this year (2010). We received information that the last execution was in May 2018.”

Kayitesi said “while we accept that the death penalty is a matter of criminal justice, but when the African Commission committed itself to put in place working group on the issue of death penalty, the idea behind was to enhance the right to life and enhance protection of human lives given that right to life is sacrosanct and these is enshrined in the constitutions of all constituencies of countries.”

 She said the position of some countries on death penalty can affect citizens of other countries.

“In the presentation you said that when death penalty is handed down in Botswana there is adherence to a fair and no arbitrary executions but we should not lose sight that people being condemned in some countries are being condemned to death penalty when there are no lawyers or committed offences when they were minors,” said Kayitesi.

She said ACHPR had noted that when there is political will, states make progress in abolishing death penalty. She added that countries like Rwanda which experienced genocide have since abolished death penalty noting that, those that perpetuated genocide were not killed.

Kayitesi added that there are other ways other than death penalty such as life in prison which could be used to sentence those convicted of murder.

“Can delegation (from Botswana) give us the number of those on death row, the number of clemency that have been positively responded to and those not positively responded to,” she said.

She bemoaned what she described as “lack of human face with respect to executions conducted each year” adding that “We have received information that there have been sentencing and executions like the one that was performed after the mother had paid a visit and that she was informed through the radio.” She also sought to know whether death row inmates were not entitled to visits.
 

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