The Botswana Institute for the Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Offenders (BIRRO), on behalf of families executed under the death penalty, has written a letter to President Lieutenant General Dr Ian Khama requesting access to the grave sites.
In the letter, copied to the Attorney-General and the Commissioner of Prisons, BIRRO urges President Khama, through his powers to allow families’ access to the graves as this would be an important initiative especially in Botswana’s golden jubilee. Part of the letter reads, “It will be a greater move forward for both the government and the victims and it will also assure them that their beloved ones are indeed in their rightful place of rest.”
Since the Prisons Act regards such executions as high security, the law prohibits all persons except the minister of Justice, Defence and Security and those he authorises from accessing the graves. All convicted criminals who have been executed have been buried in special graves within the main prison complex in Gaborone.
Executions in Botswana are concealed and families only find out the fate of their loved ones through media announcements. The EU recently expressed concern over the way convicts are executed and buried without the knowledge of their families. However Justice, Defence and Security minister, Shaw Kgathi reiterated that the death penalty would remain.
Official statistics show that at least 32 persons were hanged between independence in 1966 and 1997. A widely recognised case was that of Mariette Bosch, a South African white immigrant who was sentenced to death for murdering her lover’s wife.
According to Botswana Police Service (BPS), Patrick Gabaakanye was the last person to be executed on May 25 at Gaborone Central Prison for various offences including rape and murder. Even after the execution, the Prisons Act does not allow family members to visit the graves to pay their last respects. Capital punishment is commonly used in Botswana, one of a few democracies which continue the practice. The death sentence is usually issued upon murder under aggravated circumstances and is carried out by hanging.