Monday, January 24, 2022

Govt sets up terrorism spy agency to hang suspects

Government is in the process of setting up a counter-terrorism spy agency that will see suspected terrorists executed and sentenced to life imprisonment without being given a fair trial.

The proposed agency which will be under the direct control of the State President will usurp the powers of the judiciary; under the terrorism Act, courts shall not question the adequacy of the grounds of declaring a person or a structured group as a terrorist or terrorist group, whichever is the case and an appeal shall not lie against an order issued.

The new law states that any person who is declared a terrorist is liable to: death penalty, where the acts results in death or a term of imprisonment for life, where the Act does not result in death.

A cabinet directive that has been passed to the Sunday Standard on matters that arose from the minutes of cabinet meeting of 9th July 2014 states that the counter terrorism Bill 2013 be approved subject to the incorporation of an amendment to provide flexibility with regard to establishment and/or location within government Ministries of a new agency to coordinate and act on Counter terrorist intelligence and vest powers to decide on such including any other arrangement, with His Excellency the President.

The new law further states that any person who knowingly forms, owns, becomes a member or professes to be a member of a terrorist group commits an offence and is liable to a term of imprisonment for life.

The Act provides that an investigating officer may arrest without any warrant of arrest; any person who has committed or is committing or whom the investigating officer has reasonable grounds to suspect is likely to commit or to have committed or to be committing an offence under this Act.

“An arrest shall be subject to the conditions of power of arrest without warrant provided under the criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, except that a person detained under this section shall be detained for a period not exceeding 30 days,” the law states.

The law also allows investigating officers’ powers to apply to the Courts to be given permission to eavesdrop on cell phone and electronic mail conversations of all citizens suspected to be involved in terrorism activities, according to the Terrorism law that was hastily passed by last session of Parliament.

According to the new law, investigating officers may for the purpose of obtaining evidence of the commission of an offence under the Terrorism Act apply to a court for an order to intercept communications.

The President may declare a person a terrorist where he or she has reasonable grounds to believe that a structured group is engaged in terrorism act and a person has been convicted of an offence under the same Act.

A person who fails to report a terrorism suspect commits and offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

An investigating officer or the Director of Public Prosecutions, whichever is the case shall on an application made to a Magistrate Court or High Court request for an order to freeze without delay, funds of persons to whom there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person is likely to commit or is committing or attempting to commit or participating in or facilitating the commission of an offence.

If an investigating officer suspects that a person has committed or about to commit an offence or in possession of property which is to be used for purposes of terrorism, he or she may apply to the High Court to compel the person to handover any documents or record.

For public safety or in the interest of national security a trial for an offence under the Terrorism Act shall be held within closed doors.

Minister of Defence Justice and Security Dikgakgamatso Seretse said the government can decide to have a new agency or decide to leave cases to Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Botswana Police Service (BPS) and Botswana Defence force (BDF).

“Currently if there is any case of counter terrorism, the DIS, the police and the BDF will handle such cases, The government can decide to form a new agency as time goes or not,” he said.

Sunday Standard has learnt that the law was passed hastily without input from Members of Parliament during the last session of Parliament.

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