Lawyers representing foreign inmates being denied ARV treatment by government have asked the court to grant an order for civil imprisonment of Permanent Secretaries in the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Health.
┬áAttorney, Tshiamo Rantao argued in court in an urgent application in which a foreign inmate, Gift Ngwale has filed a contempt of court proceedings against the attorney general.
┬áRantao who is representing the foreign inmate argued that their intention is not to see senior officials being locked in prison but to see prisoners provided with ARV treatment.
Rantao stated before Justice Key Dingake this week that they asking for civil imprisonment because the government officials failed to comply with the court order.┬á┬á
Rantao further noted that┬á┬á the contempt of court in relation to refusal by government to provide prisoners with ARV treatment puts the prisoners’ lives in danger.
┬áIn his argument the lawyer also asked for a court order compelling the Attorney General to compile a report that will show that the government is complying with Judge Sechele order.
┬áHe said that they want to make sure that those responsible comply with the court order.
┬áRantao stated that it was surprising that the state had approached the court seeking to stop Sechele’s order on an urgent basis arguing that what was urgent was the prisoners’ right to life.
Rantao stated that expert evidence has been provided that denying them treatment was similar to death penalty.
┬áHe further noted that the court should excise its discretion in dealing with the issue of compliance.┬á Rantao also argued that committal of Permanent Secretaries to prisons would be appropriate. He said that this should be done as a norm in civil proceedings.
Rantao had earlier asked the court when appearing before, Judge Terrence Rannowane this week to dismiss a case in which government wanted the court to stop an order compelling government to provide ARV’s to foreign inmates.
┬áRantao asked the court after the state made an urgent application seeking the court to stop the execution of Sechele’s order.
He argued that an urgent application to stop a court order was tantamount to undermining the independence of judiciary.
┬áRantao further told the court that the right to life as stated in the judgment takes precedence over officials’ arguments┬áon stay of execution.
He further stated that the courts reputation is at stake if officials are allowed to defy the court order calling for provision of ARV.
He said that the court should stamp its authority for purpose of compliance rather relying on government officials to tell the court to stop the court order calling for provision of ARV treatment.
State counsel argued that they brought the matter on urgency because the┬á┬á High Court order compelling the government┬áto provide the ARV to foreign inmates has financial implications.
The State argued that the order could cripple the government.
Last year High Court ordered that all HIV-positive foreign inmates in Botswana be granted effective access to ARV treatment.
┬áThe Director of Health Services, in yesterday’s application to stay the order’s execution, states that the country is not prepared logistically and administratively to provide foreign inmates with ARVs, despite that it already provides the treatment to citizen prisoners.