Thursday, February 25, 2021

Human rights lawyer renews calls for independent police investigation unit

Human Rights lawyer Onalethata Kambai has lambasted government for dragging its feet with regards to the formation of an Independent Police Investigation Directorate (IPID) years after it made promises that the unit will be formed soon.

“I think government is deliberately dragging its feet on the formation of the IPID. In my view there is no reason why this important body has not been set up because government committed to its formation years ago,” he said.

He added that the formation of such an institution will assist in investigating cases where police or other security agents are believed to have acted wrongly, in some instances causing loss of life.

“This is a norm in all democratic countries including nearby South Africa and Namibia. I think this is the way to go if we want to be considered as a democratic and law abiding country,” he said.

He further explained that the police investigation directorate will ensure that cases involving police officers or any other security agents are thoroughly investigated and leave no doubt that the investigators may have covered for their colleagues.

“People will always have suspicions that security agents cover their colleagues during investigations. Such a body will clear the air and facilitate fair and thorough investigations,” he said.

Late last year, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Defense and Security Augustine Makgonatsotlhe revealed that government has finished working on the matter and will soon present it to Parliament. However, he declined to comment on the matter on Monday. Calls for an independent police investigation unit emerged after a series of extra judicial killings and reports of police brutality. Six police officers are currently on trial at the Gaborone High Court on charges of murder, destroying evidence, unlawful disposal of a dead body and giving false information to a person employed in the public service. However, it has emerged that critical evidence that is pertinent to the prosecution is missing in the case, in which the six police officers are accused of murdering Italy Setlampoloka, who died while in police custody.

The case brought into sharp focus the need for establishment of an independent police Ombudsman to investigate allegation of abuse and torture leveled against police officers. In its 2011 annual report, the Ombudsman revealed that the Botswana Police Service (BPS) was fast losing credibility in the face of the public, who doubt its integrity and ability to protect them and now believe the men in uniform have moved from enforcing the law to violating it.

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