Botswana’s civil society has lambasted Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Kagiso Mmusi after he reportedly issued orders to the police to ‘eliminate’ suspected criminals.
In a strongly worded statement, the Botswana’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Non Governmental Organisations Working Group warned the minister to “eliminate crime not people.”
The UPR NGO Working Group comprises, DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, The Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO), MISA Botswana Chapter, Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana, Rainbow Identity Association, and the Kuru Family of Organisations.
The civil society states that over the years, Botswana has witnessed an increase in crime rates, including corruption, murder, rape, house break-ins and theft, which put the lives and livelihoods of our citizens at risk.
“We appreciate the efforts of the Botswana Police Service (BPS) to combat crime, but also recognize the limited resources with which they exercise their duties. However, poor resourcing cannot be addressed by elimination of alleged suspects,” the civil society said.
The organisations noted that on 15 February 2022, Mmusi gave an instruction to the police at the ongoing 48th Botswana Police Senior Officers Annual Conference to “…eliminate the scourge in whatever form. You have resources and equipment, I instruct you today to use them and make sure this type of crime comes to an end…What I saw should be the last thing to have happened.”
The organisations said in a video currently circulating on social media, quoted the Minister as saying that “…you must do everything you can to eliminate those who do this, in whatever form.”
The organisations said Botswana committed itself to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as well as to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), both in 2000. Botswana appeared before the United Nations Human Rights Committee on 20 and 21 October 2021. They said in its 2018 Second Periodic Report to the UN Human Rights Committee, Botswana was requested to describe the training regularly provided to law enforcement and security officers in the field of human rights.
According to these civil society organisations, Botswana responded that the law enforcement training involves introduction to human rights, human rights myths, human rights and policing.
“Implementation of the Minister’s instruction risks leading to the violation of human rights and excessive use of force by police officers. There are many causes of crime including poverty, unemployment and inequality, which contribute to the increased crime rate in Botswana,” the UPR NGO Working Group said.
The Group said research indicates that 20.84% of the population is multi-dimensionally poor. This involves non-income deprivations such as education, housing, sanitation, health and access to clean drinking water.
“The unemployment rate in Botswana increased to 23.30% in 2020 from 18.20% in 2019. In 2020, 17.7% of the total labour force in Botswana was unemployed,” the UPR NGO Working Group noted.
The organisations stated that high levels of inequality are evidenced in the fact that while the industrial sector (and mining sub-sector) contribute more towards Gross Domestic Product (GDP) than the agricultural sector, the industrial sector’s relative contribution to total employment is much less than that of agriculture. It is important to address and eliminate poverty, unemployment and inequality – drivers of crime – and not eliminate people.
“We believe that the police should be instructed to act in accordance with human rights principles of equality, non-discrimination, participation, accountability, transparency and respect for the human rights of all,” the UPR NGO Working Group said.
The civil society called upon the police to strengthen their relationships and work closely with our communities, in order to effectively fight crime adding that community policing is key to protection of our society, without fear of being responsible for ‘eliminating people’.
“We also call upon our government to improve the working conditions of the police and to ensure their adequate resourcing. We urge the government to uphold the principles of human rights which are in our Constitution, and in the regional and international human rights instruments to which we have committed,” the civil society said.