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AU to hear qualms over Botswana’s death penalty

An international human rights organization, based in the United Kingdom, which works for the abolition of the death penalty, Reprieve, has written to the African Union Commission asking them to contact the Botswana government and find out why Patrick Gabaakanye was executed “in breach of the provisional measures”.

Gabaakanye, 65 from Marulamantsi ward in Serowe was executed on May 25 at Gaborone Central Prison following a conviction for the murder of a 75-year-old man at Gamosu land in Metsimotlhabe in 2010.

George Havenhand who is a case lawyer (Solicitor of England and Wales) from the international human rights organization stated: “We are looking into what steps to take in respect of our admissibility submissions in light of Patrick’s execution.”

The case work lawyer Havenhand told United Nations (UN) resident Coordinator in Botswana Anders Pedersen in a confidential e-mail seen by this publication, that “in particular, we are very concerned that Patrick appears to have been executed without a mental health assessment in circumstances where there were serious concerns about his mental health and intellectual functioning; that no decision appears to have been made on Patrick’s mercy petition; that the execution, like all executions in Botswana, was shrouded in secrecy, without prior notification given to family or lawyers, and in violation of international law; and that the execution was in breach of the African Commission’s provisional measures.”

Another casework lawyer (Solicitor of England and Wales), at Reprieve Zoe Bedford, wrote to Pedersen through e-mail on the African Commission proceedings.

She     stated: “we have raised a number of issues, including the way in which executions are carried out by Botswana (addressing the secrecy, lack of notice and failure to allow access to the body), the execution method (hanging), the failure to conduct a mental health assessment and consequent risk of executing the mentally ill / intellectually disabled and the lack of due process (including not allowing sufficient time to prepare a clemency petition, the absence of rules governing the clemency process and the refusal to confirm that it will provide a copy of the clemency decision with reasoning).”

Weekend Post has established that through his attorneys, Gabaakanye had repeatedly made the Botswana authorities particularly President Dr. Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama aware that he will pursue his complaint before the AU Commission and requested that his execution be ‘stayed’ pending the resolution of the issues, in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter and international law.

However, he received no response from the government on his requests, until he was executed. His attorney Martin Dingake of Dingake Law Partners had made multiple requests for a mental health assessment for Gabaakanye, all of which have either been denied or ignored.

“As you may recall from your meeting with Martin and Harriet, there are real concerns about Patrick’s mental health and intellectual functioning, supported by a preliminary report from a forensic psychologist conducted on the basis of interview transcripts tests administered by Harriet and Martin,” Bedford highlighted to the UN Resident Coordinator in Botswana.

However, she said that there were no assessment of Patrick’s mental health carried out by the Botswana authorities and as such, that there is a real risk that his execution was in violation of international law.

However in terms of clemency procedure in Botswana, she said, there was a ruling which established various procedural rights which did not previously exist in Botswana, marking a positive development in capital jurisprudence in Botswana.

Among other things, she stated that the ruling established that: it is obligatory for the Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy to meet to consider every clemency petition and there is a constitutional right to petition for clemency and have his petition considered. She added that in order for the prisoner to exercise this constitutional right, it is necessary to provide prodeo counsel to advice on and prepare the clemency petition.

Indications suggest that domestic court rulings and rulings by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights indicate that in Botswana, courts must consider mitigating and aggravating circumstances relevant to an offender’s culpability and moral blameworthiness in committing the specific offence.“This indicates some discretion in sentencing.”

According to a Deputy Director, Death Penalty Team (Solicitor of England and Wales) Harriet McCulloch, who is also placed at the human rights organization Reprieve reminded Pedersen; “international law requires that clemency procedures should adhere to minimum due process requirements but in Botswana, there were no due process protections provided in law or practice.”

In 2001, a South African national Marriette Bosch was also executed for murder by hanging for the murder of Maria Magdalene Wolmarans while her petition for clemency was pending with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Meanwhile, in the classified e-mail, Pedersen who is also United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Botswana also expressed shock to the developments that Botswana’s death row inmate Gabaakanye eventually was executed.

“We are certainly aware of the fact that the execution most ‘unfortunately’ did take place,” he stated in the e-mail conversation on Friday, May 27, 2016 just two days after Gabaakanye’s execution.

Pedersen was responding to Havenhand as they were having an exchange at the (then) impending execution of Gabaakanye.

The confidential long e-mail communication was between Reprieve Casework lawyers, local human rights organization Ditshwanelo, Dingake Law Partners and Pedersen. They were assisting to facilitate Gabaakanye’s petition for clemency and/or pardon under “provisional measures”.

Professor Babcock who is an international expert on the death penalty, Bedford, Ditshanwelo, Doughty Street chambers and Christof Heyns, worked on the complaint to the African Commission on various issues, including the failure of the State to conduct a mental health assessment at any stage of the proceedings.

The Constitution of Botswana establishes an Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy, which advises the President to pardon or commute death sentences. It is understood that the Committee may only be summoned by the President, but the President is compelled to summon the Committee for every sentence of death.

The Constitution and the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act both state that the President may pardon any offense. Before anyone is executed, the President must approve the death sentence.

Gabaakanye was convicted for murder in 2010 and his appeal against conviction and sentence was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on July 30 last year.

Capital punishment is commonly used in Botswana, one of a few democracies which continue the practice. The nation debate on death penalty will continue to occupy the national discourse for a long time to come as citizens are evidently torn apart – some support the practice while others abhor it.

The Human Rights Committee has previously observed that Botswana should ensure that the death penalty is applied for only the most serious crimes, with an eventual goal of “abolition”.

The Committee recommended that Botswana make available complete information on the application of the death penalty, such as “the number of convictions for murder, the number of and reasons for the courts’ findings of mitigating circumstances, the number of death sentences imposed by the courts, and on the number of the persons executed year by year.”

The European Union has also called on Botswana to “rethink” death penalty.“Following the recent execution of Patrick Gabaankanye, in Gaborone, Botswana, the European Union recalls its opposition to the use of capital punishment which can never be justified. The European Union believes that the death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment and has consistently called for its universal abolition,” the EU said through a statement.

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Transgender persons in Botswana live a miserable life

23rd November 2020
Transgender persons

An international report complied in South Africa dubbed ‘Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana’ says that the transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana live a miserable life. The community experiences higher levels of discrimination, violence and ill health.

In this report, it has been indicated that this is because their gender identity, which does not conform to narrowly define societal norms, renders them more vulnerable. Gender identity is a social determinant of health, which means that it is a factor that influences people’s health via their social context, their communities and their experiences of social exclusion. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has recognized this, and transgender people are considered a vulnerable population under the Botswana Second National Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2010-2017.

In a recent study that shed light on the lived experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana, transgender persons often experience discrimination because of their gender identity and expression. The study was conducted by the University of Cape Town, LEGABIBO, BONELA, as well as Rainbow Identity Association and approved by the Health Ministry as well as the University of Botswana.

Of the 77 transgender and gender non-conforming people who participated in the study, less than half were employed. Two thirds, which is approximately 67% said that they did not have sufficient funds to cover their everyday needs. Two in five had hidden health concerns from their healthcare provider because they were afraid to disclose their gender identity.

More than half said that because of their gender identity, they had been treated disrespectfully at a healthcare facility (55%), almost half (46%) said they had been insulted at a healthcare facility, and one quarter (25%) had been denied healthcare because of their gender identity.

At the same time, the ‘Are we doing right’ study suggests that transgender and non-conforming people might be at higher risks of experiencing violence and mental ill-health, compared to the general population. More than half had experienced verbal embarrassment because of their gender identity, 48% had experienced physical violence and more than one third (38%) had experienced sexual violence.

The study showed that mental health concerns were high among transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana. Half of the transgender and gender non-conforming study participants (53%) showed signs of depression. Between one in four and one in six showed signs of moderate or severe anxiety (22% among transgender women, 24% among transgender men and 17% among gender non-conforming people).

Further, the study revealed that many had attempted suicide: one in three transgender women (32%), more than one in three transgender men (35%) and three in five gender non-conforming people (61%).

International research, as well as research from Botswana, suggests that not being able to change one’s gender marker has a negative impact on access to healthcare and mental health and wellbeing. The study further showed that one in four transgender people in Botswana (25%) had been denied access to healthcare. This is, at least in part, linked to not being able to change one’s gender marker in the identity documents, and thus not having an identity document that matches one’s gender identity and gender expression.

In its Assessment of Legal and Regulatory Framework for HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis, the Health Ministry noted that “transgender persons in Botswana are unable to access identity documents that reflect their gender identity, which is a barrier to health services, including in the context of HIV. In one documented case, a transwoman’s identity card did not reflect her gender identity- her identity card photo indicated she was ‘male’. When she presented her identity card at a health facility, a health worker called the police who took her into custody.”

The necessity of a correct national identity document goes beyond healthcare. The High Court of Botswana explains that “the national identity document plays a pivotal role in every Motswana’s daily life, as it links him or her with any service they require from various institutions. Most activities in the country require every Motswana to produce their identity document, for identification purposes of receiving services.”

According to the Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana report, this effectively means that transgender, whose gender identity and expression is likely to be different from the sex assigned to them at birth and from what is recorded on their identity document, cannot access services without risk of denial or discrimination, or accusations of fraud.

In this context, gays and lesbians advocacy group LEGABIBO has called on government through the Department of Civil and National Registration to urgently implement the High Court rulings on gender marker changes. As stated by the High Court in the ND vs Attorney General of Botswana judgement, identity cards (Omang) play an important role in the life of every Motswana. Refusal and or delay to issue a Motswana with an Omang is denying them to live a complete and full-filing life with dignity and violates their privacy and freedom of expression.

The judgement clarified that persons can change their gender marker as per the National Registrations Act, so changing the gender marker is legally possible. There is no need for a court order. It further said the person’s gender is self-identified, there is no need to consult medical doctors.

LEGABIBO also called on government to develop regulations that specify administrative procedure to change one’s gender marker, and observing self-determination process. Further, the group looks out for government to ensure members of the transgender community are engaged in the development of regulations.

“We call on this Department of Civil and National Registration to ensure that the gender marker change under the National Registration Act is aligned to the Births and Deaths Registry Act to avoid court order.

Meanwhile, a gay man in Lobatse, Moabi Mokenke was recently viciously killed after being sexually violated in the streets of Peleng, shockingly by his neighbourhood folks. The youthful lad, likely to be 29-years old, met his fate on his way home, from the wearisome Di a Bowa taverns situated in the much populated township of Peleng Central.

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Khato Civils fights back, dares detractors

23rd November 2020
Khato-civil

CEO of Khato Civils Mongezi Mnyani has come out of the silence and is going all way guns blazing against the company’s adversaries who he said are hell-bent on tarnishing his company’s image and “hard-earned good name”

Speaking to WeekendPost from South Africa, Mnyani said it is now time for him to speak out or act against his detractors. Khato Civils has done several projects across Africa. Khato Civils, a construction company and its affiliate engineering company, South Zambezi have executed a number of world class projects in South Africa, Malawi and now recently here in Botswana.

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UDC petitioners turn to Saleshando

23rd November 2020
Dumelang Saleshando

About ten (10) Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) parliamentary candidates who lost the 2019 general election and petitioned results this week met with UDC Vice President, Dumelang Saleshando to discuss the way forward concerning the quandary that is the legal fees put before them by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lawyers.

For a while now, UDC petitioners who are facing the wrath of quizzical sheriffs have demanded audience with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC) but in vain. However after the long wait for a tete-a-tete with the UDC, the petitioners met with Saleshando accompanied by other NEC members including Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, Reverend Mpho Dibeela and Dennis Alexander.

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