A report by Amnesty International that has been submitted to the United Nations (UN) reveals how the final 24 hours of death row inmate in Botswana is planned with terrifying precision.
The report explains how condemned men and women are subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment prior to executions. The UN Committee against torture was in the country recently to assess whether the country implement the provisions of the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The report by Amnesty International says the date and time of the set execution for death row in mates is not communicated to them in advance by Botswana authorities.
According to the report, “There is a separate place where people on death row are housed, it is called “Cell 10”. It says, “The day before a person is executed, they are transported to the “death watch” cell at 6am in the morning, this is where they spend the last24 hours of their life.” “They are executed by hanging at 6am the morning after that,” the report says.
Citing another report by the Human Rights Committee, Amnesty International noted that “failure to provide individuals on death row with timely notification about the date of their execution constitutes, as a rule, a form of ill-treatment, which renders the subsequent execution contrary to article 7 of the [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
The report says the authorities of Botswana also do not provide notice of any set executions to the family members and representatives of those at imminent risk, nor the forthcoming executions announced to the public. “Furthermore, the bodies of those executed are usually not released to their family members for burial,” the report says.
It says as noted by the Human Rights Committee, “failure to provide relatives with information on the circumstances of the death of an individual may violate their rights under article 7, [of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights], as could failure to inform them of the location of the body, and, where the death penalty is applied, of the date on which the State party plans to carry out the death penalty.”
It says relatives of individuals deprived of their life by the State must be able to receive the remains, if they so wish.” It says transparency is also a critical safeguard to guaranteeing their rights and protecting against unlawful executions. “The authorities of states that have not abolished the death penalty must respect the prohibition on the use of torture or other ill-treatment also with regard to the carrying out of the execution itself to prevent the arbitrary deprivation of life,” the report says.
It says Botswana uses ‘hanging by the neck until you are dead’ as an execution method. The report says in 2019 the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights found that because of the inherent suffering involved when using this method of execution.
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.