Further to its mandate under Article 45 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter), and following authorization by the Government of the Republic of Botswana (Botswana), a delegation of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) undertook a Promotion Mission in Botswana from 09 to 13 July 2018.
The Commission’s delegation comprised:
· Honourable Commissioner Soyata Maiga, Chairperson of the Commission, Chairperson of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and Those at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV; and Chairperson of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa (Head of the Delegation);
· Honourable Commissioner Lawrence Murugu Mute, Vice-Chairperson of the Commission, Commissioner Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Republic of Botswana and Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa;
· Honourable Commissioner Hatem Essaiem, Chairperson of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa;
· Honourable Commissioner Maria Theresa Manuela, Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa;
· Mrs. Anita Bagona, Legal Officer;
· Ms. Eva Heza, Legal Officer; and
· Ms. Doris Kendi Kiambati, the assistant to Honourable Commissioner Lawrence Murugu Mute.
The objectives of the mission were, inter alia: to promote the African Charter and other regional and international human rights legal instruments; strengthen relations between the Commission and Botswana with regard to the promotion and protection of the rights guaranteed by the African Charter; collect information on the general human rights situation in Botswana; engage in dialogue with the Government on the legislative and other measures taken to give full effect to the provisions of the African Charter and other instruments ratified by Botswana, and identify the challenges faced; evaluate the impact of HIV/AIDS in the country as well as the situation of the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS, those at risk, vulnerable and affected by HIV/AIDS, identify the progress made as well as the obstacles which hinder the exercise and full enjoyment of their rights; gather information on the situation of freedom of expression and prevention of torture, in addition to the situation of the rights of women, children, asylum seekers, refugees, internally displaced persons, migrants, older persons, persons with disabilities, and other categories of vulnerable persons living in Botswana.
The mission commenced with a courtesy call to the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation.
During the mission, the Delegation held discussions with various State and non-state actors involved in the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in Botswana.
The Delegation held meetings with the following Senior Government officials:
· The Permanent Secretary, and officials in the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security;
· The Permanent Secretary, and officials of the Ministry of Basic Education;
· The Permanent Secretary, and officials of the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development;
· The Permanent Secretary and officials of the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration & Gender Affairs;
· The Deputy Permanent Secretary for Development and Budget, and officials of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development;
· The Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology;
· Members of the Parliamentary Health and HIV/AIDS Committee;
· The Ombudsman, Deputy Ombudsman and officials in the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Delegation also met with the following:
· The Non-Governmental Organisation Council Chairperson and Council members;
· Representatives from the Ministry of Health & Wellness and the Coordinator of the National AIDS Coordinating Agency;
· The Site Manager of the Infectious Disease Control Centre of the Botswana Prison Service;
· The Deputy Commissioner of the Botswana Prison Service and the Divisional Commander South, Botswana Prison Service;
· The UN Resident Coordinator and representatives from UN agencies; and
· Representatives of civil society organizations working in Botswana.
The delegation visited the Bontleng Clinic and the offices of the Botswana Family Welfare Association (BOFWA) facilitated by the National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA), and concluded the Mission with a debriefing meeting with the Director of Multilateral Affairs Department in the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation.
The Delegation commends the Government of Botswana for its political will and commitment towards the effective enjoyment of human rights, including through the adoption, since the last visit of the Commission to Botswana, of further legislative and other measures to implement the African Charter and other ratified regional and international human rights instruments.
The Delegation notes the following positive developments:
i. Initiatives established to encourage empowerment of the youth;
ii. Free basic education at primary and secondary levels;
iii. The establishment of boarding and satellite schools to encourage education of children who live in remote areas;
iv. The development of various programs and policies for vocational and technical education;
v. The commitment to fund the health sector, including through allocating approximately 15% of the annual budget to health;
vi. The provision of free health services to Botswana citizens, including free access to ARVs;
vii. The measures adopted towards ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country, such as the ‘test and treat’ policy irrespective of CD4 count;
viii. The significant gains made towards ending mother to child transmission;
ix. Concerted Government efforts which have been taken to address maternal mortality caused by bleeding and eclampsia;
x. The inclusion of sexual and reproductive health in school curriculum;
xi. The establishment of the Non-Governmental Organisation Council (NGOC), to facilitate collaboration between the Government and civil society; and
xii. The Government’s commitment and initiatives to combat corruption, including the protection of whistleblowers through enactment of the Whistleblowers Act.
At the same time, the Delegation takes note of a number of challenges, including the following:
i. Botswana’s relatively low level of ratification of regional and international human rights instruments;
ii. The absence of statistics covering various areas of human rights;
iii. Absence of a national institution fully dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights;
iv. The lack of full autonomy and financial independence of the Office of the Ombudsman;
v. Maintenance of legal provisions on death penalty in the statute books and the continued execution of inmates sentenced to capital punishment;
vi. The lack of a specific legal provision criminalizing torture;
vii. The lack of an independent police oversight body to investigate allegations of violations committed by the Police;
viii. The rising rate of new HIV infections, increasingly among adolescents, young girls and women;
ix. Legal barriers which restrict key populations such as men who have sex with men and sex workers from accessing HIV-prevention commodities such as condoms and ARVs;
x. The high incidence of maternal mortality related to illegal and unsafe abortions which is criminalized in Botswana;
xi. The lack of access to free ARVs by non-citizens, which is hindering the reduction of the HIV epidemic;
xii. The quite low representation of women in political bodies including Parliament, and the lack of adequate measures to encourage political participation of women and persons with disabilities during elections;
xiii. Youth unemployment; and
xiv. The lack of provisions criminalizing marital rape.
The Commission will prepare a detailed mission report with specific recommendations. Meanwhile, the Delegation would like to recommend that Botswana:
i. Consider ratifying regional and international instruments, including the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the rights of women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol), the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and its optional protocol, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its optional protocol;
ii. Develop Government policy on collection of relevant statistics related to various areas of human rights;
iii. Finalize the process of turning the Ombudsman’s Office into a hybrid institution with functions specifically dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights, in compliance with the Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions (the Paris Principles);
iv. Consider a moratorium on the death penalty and lead dialogue on abolition of the death penalty;
v. Consider enacting a law which includes a specific legal provision criminalizing torture;
vi. Establish an independent police oversight body to investigate allegations of violations committed by the Police;
vii. Take urgent measures to address the rising rate of new HIV infections among adolescents, young girls and women;
viii. Address the legal barriers which prevent key populations such as MSM and sex workers from accessing HIV/prevention commodities such as condoms and ARVs;
ix. Consider decriminalizing abortion;
x. Address the non-provision of free ARVs to non-citizens, including through enacting targeted Government programs addressing this key population;
xi. Take concrete measures to encourage women’s participation in politics as well as the political participation of other vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities;
xii. Intensify Government initiatives to address youth unemployment; and
xiii. Consider enacting a specific legal provision criminalizing marital rape.
The Delegation wishes to express its gratitude to the Government of the Republic of Botswana for facilitating the mission and for the frankness and constructive dialogue with all the stakeholders. The Delegation expresses its particular appreciation to the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation for making the mission a success.
Done in Gaborone, Republic of Botswana, 13 July 2018