DITSHWANELO Press statement on the execution of Patrick Gabaakanye
The Botswana Centre for Human Rights is extremely disappointed by the recent execution of death row inmate Mr Patrick Gabaakanye. According to a statement made by the Botswana Police Services, Mr Gabaakanye was executed on 25 May 2016, at Gaborone Central Prison. Mr Gabaakanye had been convicted for murder imposed by the High Court of Botswana on March 13, 2014 and confirmed by the Court of Appeal on 30 July 2015 . He was executed before the clemency process had been fully completed.
Following the 30 July 2015 Court of Appeal ruling, the matter was again placed before the court in 2016. The lack of transparency of the clemency process in relation to those on death row was brought before the Court of Appeal in 2016, by local Lawyer Mr Martin Dingake, with the help of DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights. On 21 April 2016, the Court of Appeal handed down a Judgment relating to the clemency (prerogative of mercy) process in Botswana. It held that less than six weeks preparation time for pro deo counsel to prepare a clemency petition (and to be in possession of the same documents as the Committee) would not allow the accused persons to meaningfully exercise their constitutional right to clemency. Mr Dingake subsequently sent a letter on 26 April 2016 requesting that the application date for clemency to be considered by the Committee, be extended from 29 April 2016 to 2 June 2016. Mr Dingake had not received a response by 28 April 2016 and consequently filed an application on 29 April 2016.
In 2013 at the second cycle of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, the government of Botswana accepted the recommendation to inform the family members of the accused of the execution before it was carried out. According to Mr Dingake, the family of Mr Gabaakanye was not informed about the execution before it happened.
DITSHWANELO, together with other human rights organisations around the world, remains opposed to the death penalty. The hasty and secretive nature of State-sanctioned executions remain of serious concern.
The 21 April 2016 Court of Appeal Judgment was a step in the right direction for Botswana in relation to the clemency process in particular and the death penalty in general. However, critically the Clemency Advisory Committee failed to adhere to the 2016 ruling made by the Court of Appeal. The Committee did not provide sufficient time for the legal counsel to prepare the application. We encourage the government to adhere to court judgments, especially when they are a matter of life and death.