Thursday, October 1, 2020

America paints gloomy picture of Botswana’s human rights

The United States of America’s Department of State has presented a gloomy picture of human rights in Botswana. A Botswana “country report” released by the US Department of State last month observes that “the following human rights problems were reported during the year: abuse of detainees by security forces, poor prison conditions, lengthy delays in the judicial process, restrictions on press freedom, violence against women, and child abuse. There was societal discrimination against homosexuals, persons with HIV/AIDS, and members of the San ethnic group. Government restrictions on the right to strike and child labour were problems. The government’s continued narrow interpretation of a December 2006 High Court ruling resulted in the majority of San, originally relocated from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) being prohibited from returning to or hunting in the CKGR.”

It states that “prison conditions remained poor due to overcrowding. In August the prison system held 6,074 prisoners, but had an authorized capacity of 3,994. Overcrowding was worst in men’s prisons and constituted a serious health threat because of the country’s high incidence of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Rape between inmates occurred. Infrastructure improvements were made at several prisons during the year.”

“Juveniles occasionally were held with adults. Some parents requested that their incarcerated children be transferred to facilities nearer to their homes, which also resulted in the detention of juveniles with adults.
“The civil courts remained unable to provide timely trials due to severe staffing shortages and a backlog of pending cases. A 2005 report by the Office of the Ombudsman characterized the “delays in the finalization of criminal matters in all courts” as a “serious concern,” particularly the delays in processing appeals.
The report further states that “on March 23, the government required 17 foreigners, including seven journalists that had written articles critical of the government, to apply for visas prior to entry even though they are from countries generally exempt from this requirement.

In what the report slammed as a “narrow interpretation” of the High Court judgment, the report states that “the government restricted the ability of indigenous San who had been relocated from the CKGR to designated settlement camps in 2002 to return to the reserve. Only the 189 San named in a 2006 High Court case, their spouses, and their minor children were permitted to live in the CKGR. A few San had never left the reserve, and some San moved back to the CKGR since the High Court’s decision. Many of the 189 did not return to live in the CKGR as lack of water made the CKGR an extremely inhospitable living environment; the government was not required to provide water in CKGR per the 2006 ruling (see section 5). Visitors to the reserve, including relocated former residents not named in the 2006 case, must obtain a permit to enter the CKGR.

Under a section that deals with “governmental attitude regarding international and nongovernmental Investigation of alleged violations of Human Rights,” the report states that “on September 10, the Registrar of Societies rejected a registration application from the NGO Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana Organization (LEGABIBO). Officials stated that the application was not approved as it was believed that LEGABIBO would be used for unlawful purposes since homosexual acts are criminal offenses in the country.

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