The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) has deployed three senior officers to Mozambique to participate in the military observer mission to ensure that the country’s post election’s tensions do not spill to violence.
The BDF soldiers are part of a ninety-three African, European and North American observer mission tasked with monitoring the eradication of hostilities between the Frelimo led government and their electoral opponents, Renamo.
The army’s Director of Protocol and Public Administration, Tebo Kacho Dikole has confirmed that a Brigadier, Colonel and Lieutenant Colonel are already in Mozambique to undertake the assignment which he said is intended to “observe the agreement between Mozambique Government and Renamo planned to run until February 2015.”
The agreement include disarming the opposition, Renamo and bringing to an end the Renamo private militia.
The Mozambique government has confirmed that the BDF soldiers form part of the military observer mission to be deployed to the four Provinces of Mozambique by Wednesday next week. The provinces to be covered include, Sofala and Tete in Central Mozambique, Nampula in the North and Inhambane in the South.
A Mozambique Minister, Jose Pacheso confirmed to the media this week that from next week, the military observers will be deployed into the four Provinces as part of the agreement between the two parties, Renamo and Frelimo.
According to Pacheso, it was position in the four provinces that activities would be undertaken to integrate what are euphemistically referred to as Renamo residual forces into the Police and army forces or civil life.
The army men from Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Cape Verde, Italy, Portugal, Britain and United States are expected to have done the job in 135 days, which ends in February next year, but Pacheso says the date might be extended.
Mozambique held Presidential elections last week Wednesday in a closely watched contest by foreign observers. During the election period the opposition, Renamo accused Frelimo of vote rigging and as a result rejected the elections results.
However the SADC election observers representing fifteen members states and the European observes declared the general elections fair and credible.
Meanwhile the two parties are bound by the anti-violence agreement signed in August. The two parties signed a truce to end violence, two Months before the presidential elections which were held last week.
Following their loss to the Duma Boko-led lobby in the Botswana National Front (BNF)’s national congress last month, some members of the party are reportedly considering forming a new political party.
According to members, the new party will be formed after they receive a tip-off that the BNF will do all it can to ensure that the aggrieved members do not participate in the 2024 national elections. This will reportedly done through a carefully orchestrated primary elections elimination campaign.
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.