Monday, January 17, 2022

Attorney General lashes at SA judges

Attorney General Dr Athaliah Molokomme has lashed out at South African judges following their attack on the country’s judicial system, which they, amongst other things, describe as “remarkably deficient and opaque”.

The attack against the Botswana judicial system was made last week when passing judgment in a case Botswana wanted her citizen, Emmanuel Tsebe, to be extradited to stand trial for having murdered his girlfriend.

Molokomme said it was unfortunate that the judgment accepted uncritically and without assessment of their accuracy one-sided reports of international pressure groups which are opposed to the death penalty.

She was responding to a questionnaire from Sunday Standard on the judgment which has made headlines in both Botswana and South Africa recently.

On charges that Botswana‘s judiciary system was “remarkably deficient”, she said that, “Botswana is proud of its judicial system, which has a universally acknowledged record of independence and integrity and that its court of appeal is well respected around the globe and has, over the past years, been served by independent international jurists of repute, including, amongst others, South African George Bizos, all of whom served with distinction and took oath to upheld the constitution of Botswana.

On the issues of the death penalty, which the judges said was surprising that Botswana was still practicing whilst most countries on the continent had either abolished or were declining to impose, Molokomme said that if South Africa had seen it fit to change their law and abolish the death penalty, that is a matter for South Africa but that Botswana has not seen it fit to do so further that Botswana is not obliged to do like South Africa or any other country.

On accusations by the South African judges that Botswana carries out “hasty and secretive hangings”, the Attorney General said that it was unfortunate that the judgment accepted uncritically and without assessment of their accuracy one-sided reports of international pressure groups, which are opposed to the death penalty. The Court had apparently attributed the findings to the International Federation for Human Rights.

On the ruling by the Court that it will be illegal and unconstitutional for South Africa to extradite Tsebe to Botswana, or any other country that carries out death sentences, unless there is an assurance that the person would not be executed, Molokomme said that Botswana has made it clear that it will not make such an undertaking.

Commenting on the judgement by the Johannesburg High Court, Gaborone lawyer, Boingotlo Toteng, said that as far as he was concerned the matter at hand was an extradition of Tsebe to Botswana.
In that regard, he said that it was unavoidable for them to make remarks on the judicial aspects of the country as regards extradition. However, he said that he would have found it far reaching if they made such comments without such a case before them.

Commenting on Molokomme’s response, Toteng cautioned against what he called “over sensitiveness”, saying as lawyers they are used to being criticized.

Another Gaborone lawyer, Isaac Seloko, said he saw nothing wrong with the comments that were made by the South African judges as they were dealing with the issue, which was at hand, that of extraditing someone to a country that still practices the death penalty.

He added that they were bound to make such comments when extensively interrogating the issue.

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