Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Botswana judiciary ‘remarkably deficient”

The Johannesburg High Court in South Africa has slammed the Botswana judiciary as “remarkably deficient.”

Ruling on an extradition application, the court noted “a number of remarkable deficiencies in the judicial system of Botswana” highlighted in a report, Hasty and Secretive Hangings, by the International Federation for Human Rights.

The ruling by a full bench, comprising deputy judge president Phineas Mojapelo, Judge Neels Claasens and acting Judge George Bizos, slammed Botswana as a “pariah state not synchronized with the majority of African countries that have either abandoned or are refusing to implement the death penalty”.

The court further noted that the country’s history in implementing judicial executions ensured that it had “proved itself to be a flouter of human rights.” Thirty ÔÇôeight people were hanged in Botswana between independence and 2006.

The ruling by the Johannesburg High Court found that it was illegal and unconstitutional for South Africa to extradite a crime suspect to a country that still used the death penalty unless there were written assurances from its government that the person will not be executed.

The case involved Emmanuel Tsebe, A Motswana alleged murderer, who died in custody in South Africa. Tsebe was fighting extradition to Botswana where he was facing murder charges.?The ruling painted a picture of the Botswana government as one with a propensity for, “secretive hangings” and scant regard for human rights principles in various conventions, including the African Charter. These included the “opaque “clemency process of the Botswana clemency committee, which considers applications for appeals against the death penalty. According to the report, only one person has been granted a reprieve after being sentenced to death in 1996. The judgment also noted that the integrity of the committee was compromised by the fact that the Attorney General served as a member.

“It goes without saying that the ability of the attorney general to act independently from the president when clemency cases are under consideration is seriously compromised”, the judges said.

The judgment also cited the case of South Africa national Mariette Bosch who was convicted of murder in Botswana and sentenced to death, as an example of the country’s secretive approach. In 2001 Bosch applied to the African Commission, alleging violations of various rights under the African Charter and asking it to intervene. The commission had written to former President Festus Mogae asking for a stay of execution until a decision on Bosch’s petition was made. Despite the request, Bosch was executed four days later.

The ruling also noted the case of political studies academic, Kenneth Good, who had co-written an article critical of the presidential succession in 2005 and was subsequently expelled from Botswana, to raise concerns about the country’s authoritarian tendencies and the compliant nature of its judiciary.

Good was expelled by Mogae with less than three days notice. The Botswana courts endorsed the decision.

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