The Minister of Justice, Defense and Security, Ramadeluka Seretse, last week found himself on the back foot at the World Human Rights Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Seretse was faced with the mammoth task of answering very difficult questions about Botswana’s human rights record, so much so that he ended up being on the defensive.
In the end, he could not help but assume a defensive and somewhat aggrieved tone, in defense of his country.
In apparent criticism of those who scrutinized Botswana’s human rights record, Seretse said, “I wish to note one worrying phenomenon. When addressing human rights issues in this Council, some countries have the tendency to seek to impose their own values and norms, as if these were universally agreed. Where there are differences we should strive to accommodate and tolerate one another in our efforts to achieve acceptable solutions.”
There is obviously mounting pressure on Botswana to comply with certain international best practice in human rights.
Seretse explained that Botswana is party to most of the core international human rights instruments, and continues to cooperate with the treaty bodies and the entire United Nations human rights system.
For instance, he said, in January 2010, Botswana presented the combined initial, second and third periodic report on the implementation of the Convention for consideration by the CEDAW Committee. The report covered all the legislative, judicial, administrative and other measures that the Government had adopted to give effect to the provisions of the Convention.
The report followed a visit by the United Nations (UN) Special Rapportuer, James Anaya, to Botswana to investigate the situation regarding the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, after it emerged that Basarwa human rights were violated when they were displaced from the CKGR.
In his remarks the President of the Council urged participants to freely discuss all subjects, particularly those on which contrary viewpoints existed.
In his presentation, Seretse also revealed that Botswana is pursuing measures to strengthen its national protection framework for human rights. In that regard an allusion was made to the effect that there are plans to broaden the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsman to include human rights issues.
Once again, Seretse pledged his country’s intention to ultimately append its signature to the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC), as well as their commitment to eliminating all forms of discrimination.