Following a high court decision not to reinstate the four recently suspended judges, Amnesty International and SADC Lawyers’ Association have warned that failure to reinstate them would likely result in the independence of the judiciary being compromised.
The judges, Key Dingake, Mercy Thebe, Rainer Busanang and Modiri Letsididi were suspended on the 28th August by President Khama under Section 97 of the Botswana Constitution for alleged misconduct and bringing the judiciary into disrepute.
This followed a petition signed by 12 judges, including the suspended four, calling for the impeachment of Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa said the suspension of the judges over a petition against the Chief Justice constitutes serious interference with their freedom of expression and is a serious threat to Botswana’s judicial independence. “It appears that the judges were suspended because of their criticism of the Chief Justice. If this is the case, it’s a clear attack on their freedom of expression which undermines the independence of the judiciary.”
The suspended judges believe that the disciplinary action taken against them was because they were seen as instigators behind the petition against the Chief Justice. Amnesty International and SADC Lawyers’ Association are calling for the immediate re-instatement of the four judges.
President Khama who is the current Chairman off the SADC according to the rotating position of chairperson of SADC is widely expected to do more in regards to human rights abuses. However, many believe that this saga is likely to put a dent on his leadership. Executive Secretary of the SADC Lawyers’ Association, Makanatsa Makonese also reiterated the fact that this case is likely to compromise the independence of the judiciary.