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Botswana reaffirms her support for ICC

Amid strong winds of discontent and discomfort especially from fellow African countries about the International Criminal Court, Botswana has reaffirmed her support for the court and declared her readiness to engage and reach out to member countries to find lasting solutions to challenges faced by the body.

Speaking at the 15th session of the assembly of state parties to the Rome statute of the ICC in Netherlands, midweek, the country’s Attorney General, Athaliah Molokomme, said Botswana’s determination to honour the court is strong. “Botswana once again reaffirms her commitment to contributing to one of the most indispensable causes of human life – the attainment of justice for victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Molokomme noted before adding that, “Our determination to honour our obligations under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is strong. In this regard a bill domesticating the Rome Statute of the ICC has been tabled before Parliament. 

It has gone through the First Reading and is now on the agenda for the November 2016 session,” she explained. However, while Botswana domesticates the statute and sings praise to the latest ICC preliminary report, support for the court continues to crumble as other countries are thinking of pulling out their signatures. Already four countries, latest, Russia, have pulled out.

This week Russia withdrew its support for the treaty in protest against an investigation into alleged atrocities it committed in Georgia. The details of the alleged atrocities are contained in the ICC report which was released this week. Not long after Russia’s move, Philippines President, Rodrigo Duterte was also quoted in the media as having suggested that he is thinking of withdrawing his signature from the ICC as well. This follows earlier withdrawals from the ICC by three African countries, South Africa, Gambia and Burundi who strongly believe that ICC is biased against Africa.

Meanwhile, the United States of America had also dismissed the ICC’s investigation of potential war crimes that its soldiers could have committed in Afghanistan as unwarranted. The US state Department spokesperson, Elizabeth Tudeau was quoted as having stated that, “We do not believe that an ICC examination or investigation with respect to the actions of US personnel in relation to the situation in Afghanistan is warranted or appropriate.”

The US is said to have praised its own system of “accountability” and contended that it does not even fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC. But the ICC suggests otherwise: “The information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that, in the course of interrogating these detainees, and in conduct supporting those interrogations, members of the US armed forces and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) resorted to techniques amounting to the commission of the war crimes of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape.

These acts are punishable under articles 8(2)(c)(i) and (ii) and 8(2)(e)(vi) of the Statute.” The US and China are not signatories to the statute that forms the ICC. Meanwhile Botswana has applauded the continued good work of the court and has welcomed the report tabled by the court President, Silvia Fernandez this week.

“With the continuing mass atrocities taking place across the world, we are deeply concerned by the deteriorating humanitarian and political situations in Yemen, Syria, The West Bank and in some parts of Africa,” Molokomme stated and added that, “And while the world is still replete with mass atrocities and grave crimes that continue to shake the conscience of humanity, nations, big and small, can still draw inspiration and solace from knowing that never, never and never again shall the world be ruled by tyrants, dictators and criminals alike.”


Eighteen years ago, according to Molokomme, nations of the world, reeling from the wounds of the bitter and brutal past, tired of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity decided to come together and establish the ICC. She said, with complementarity to national jurisdictions as its hallmark, the ICC resolved to put an end to impunity for all perpetrators of such crimes irrespective of status, power, influence or rank in society.

“The creation of the ICC marked a milestone in the enhancement of International Criminal Jurisprudence and strengthening of the international rule of law.  We want it to work effectively. The domestication of the Rome Statue of the ICC will contribute in no small measure to the realization of this shared objective,” she further pointed out.

Molokomme’s contention is that, Botswana's commitment to the core principles of the ICC is to cooperate with the international community, to enable the Court to function effectively and sustainably, as it seeks to bring lasting peace to the world. She says, in fact “the President of the Republic of Botswana, His Excellency Lt. General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama underscored this conviction at the opening of the Plenary of the 10th Session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”

Molokomme further stated that President Khama is of the view that progress should be made regarding the Crime of Aggression and that the struggle against impunity in all its forms and manifestations must continue.
“Having the requisite threshold of more than 30 ratifications, we look forward to seeing the activation of the ICC's jurisdiction over the Crime of Aggression next year,” she added.

Currently the ICC is investigating 10 situations and 10 preliminary investigations, a situation which Botswana feels needs the support of the international community if it is to build on the new development agenda. “We therefore welcome and support efforts by the President of the Court to carry out reforms within the institution in order to enhance its efficient financial operations,” Molokomme suggested.

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13 AUGUST 2022 Publication

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DIS blasted for cruelty – UN report

26th July 2022
DIS BOSS: Magosi

Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.

Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.

She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”

Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.

On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.

“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.

One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.

The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”

The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.

Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.

Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.

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Stan Chart halts civil servants property loan facility

26th July 2022
Stan-Chart

Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.

This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.

He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.

Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”

He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.

Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.

“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.

In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”

In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.

He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.”  Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.

Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.

He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”

Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.

“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.

“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said.  Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.

Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.

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