Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Mixed reaction on government’s ‘shoot to kill’ policy

The recent revelation that government has adopted a shoot to kill policy against poachers has been received with mixed feelings. Some politicians and lawyers are condemning the decision arguing that it infringes on the rule of law and undermines democratic tenets.
Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, has been reported to have said in an interview with ITV, a British Television channel that Botswana government has adopted a shoot to kill policy against armed poachers without interrogation in an effort to curb escalating poaching activities.
The minister is quoted as saying that as long as the poachers are armed, security forces will shoot to kill without any interrogation. The paper also quotes Khama as saying that the same treatment is not only reserved for foreign poachers but extends to local poachers.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Secretary General, Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang, condemned the strategy as inhuman adding that it tramples on the tenets of democracy. He further said that such a policy might blemish the image of the country and affect its tourism sector.
┬á“I totally reject the strategy adopted by government to shoot and kill poachers as it violates the very same tenets of democracy and the rule of law. No one is above the law and such a law clearly tramples on human rights, Imagine if the farmers had adopted the shoot to kill strategy to fight stock theft. The shoot to kill policy undermines the rule of law which is an important tenet of a functioning democracy,” he said.
Dr Gobotswang further expressed concern that government seems to care more after wildlife than human life. He said that the constitution of Botswana calls for proper legal procedures to be followed in condemning a suspect or a criminal.
“When the rule of law is disregarded, the country has potential to turn into chaos as law of the jungle prevails. The law of the jungle dictates that you either eat or be eaten, which is clearly portrayed by this strategy. Such a policy undermines the importance of the courts of law,” he said.
Botswana National Front (BNF) Publicity Secretary, Moeti Mohwasa also shared the same sentiments with Dr Gobotswang saying that the decision undermines the rule of law.  He said that a proper legal procedure should be followed in prosecuting suspects and justice should be seen to be done.
“Such a policy tramples on the rule of law which is an integral part of our country’s democracy. While we appreciate the important role played by wildlife in our tourism sector, we strongly advocate strongly against such an inhuman policy which violates human rights,” he said.
Mohwasa said that shooting should only be done only in accordance with the law when the security agents are in danger or are being attacked by suspects as a last option.
“The minister was clear when he said that they will shoot at the armed poachers without interrogation which is shocking. That is unlawful and the policy undermines the rule of law and legal procedure,” he said.
Human rights lawyer, Dick Bayford, also castigated the policy arguing that it is fundamentally flawed.
“From a constitutional point of view, that statement by the Minister is fundamentally flawed. The reason being that there is no law in Botswana which entitles law enforcement agencies to shoot an individual to death,” he said.
Bayford said that what the law provides for is that force can only be applied in defence of the person and his property provided that such force is reasonable in the circumstances. He said that even where a poacher is armed, if he is not using any force to repel any lawful arrest, it would be unlawful to open fire on him with the sole purpose of killing.
“The statement by the minister has the potential to open a flood gate of wanton and arbitraries on the part of the law enforcement agencies. That statement has no place in a democracy which prides itself with adherence to the rule of law. The primary objective would be to arrest. If there is no resistance by the suspected poacher, there is no use to execute him,” he said.
He however said that if there is resistance to arrest, the amount of force used should be proportional and reasonable to the amount of resistance from the suspected poacher.
Francistown based lawyer Morgan Moseki of MCM Moseki Attorneys also expressed discontent with the policy saying it amounts to violation of human rights and trampling of the country’s democratic tenets.
“I am not sure if the government policy to shoot armed suspected poachers on sight without interrogation is serious. If that is the case, the country risks a serious diplomatic row with other countries should citizens of other countries be killed in the shootings. If a suspect is shot without being interrogated then it amounts to murder and the government can be sued for unlawful killing,” he said.
Efforts to solicit a comment from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General, Mpho Balopi were futile as his phone rang unanswered. BDP deputy executive secretary Lee Lesetedi also refused to comment referring all questions to Balopi.

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