Friday, February 26, 2021

Botswana, South Africa in fresh row over death penalty

Botswana’s death penalty has sparked fresh controversy in South Africa after a Botswana citizen facing death penalty was deported under mysterious circumstances. The Botswana government had sought extradition of Edwin Samotse to face murder charges. However, the South African government, through the Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe, sought an assurance that a death penalty would not be imposed on Samotse. The Botswana government declined to give such an assurance. The result is that Minister Radebe ordered that Samotse could not be extradited because the Botswana government declined to give the necessary assurances over his risks of facing the death penalty.

South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs says officials from the same department without prior knowledge of the Director-General and without any authority, secured the release of Samotse from the Polokwane Police Station and transported him to the Groblersbrug Port of Entry between South Africa and Botswana, where they handed him over to Botswana officials. “Accordingly, the Department condemns these actions as unlawful and unconstitutional. In this regard, the Department is in contact with the Botswana authorities with a view to resolving the matter,” the department said in a statement. The Department says it has launched an investigation into circumstances surrounding Samotse’s removal from custody into Botswana. To this end, the officials involved in the matter have been suspended.

South African Human Rights have also joined the fray and are taking the Department of Home Affairs to court for “thwarting” the law by deporting the 26-year-old Botswana national to his home country where they say he risks the death penalty. The group said this week it was appalled at the department’s “blatant disregard for the rule of law” and has launched its urgent court application after the department deported Edwin Samotse from Polokwane Prison back to Botswana last month. Together with Legal Aid SA, the matter will be heard on September 15 in the North Gauteng High Court in a bid to compel the department to locate Samotse, and engage with the government of Botswana to prevent him facing the death penalty. Samotse is now untraceable. He allegedly murdered his lover in Francistown three years ago, and his brother-in-law reportedly alerted the police to his location here. “We have no idea where he is, or where he is being held, but he is probably in jail,” said a senior attorney at Legal Aid SA, who could not be named. They argue that their country’s Constitutional Court has previously ruled that South African law requires the assurance from the Botswana government that its nationals would not be put to death if found guilty before any removal could take place.

“This is because our constitutional democracy upholds the right to dignity, life and not to be subjected to cruel, unusual or degrading treatment,” according to Lawyers for Human Rights. Botswana Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Near Bagali said he was not aware of the extradition of Samotse. Bagali referred Sunday Standard to Director of Criminal Investigation Department Assistant Commissioner Mathews Maduwane who said he had “to check with police stations before” he could comment on the matter.

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