Botswana accused of Brutality on Refugees

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Caprivians said to be deported without due process of the law.



Namibian Human Rights group, NamRights, formerly National Society for Human Rights has accused the government of Botswana of brutality, cruel treatment and forcible deportations of Caprivian refugees in Botswana.

According to NamRights, two Caprivi Strip nationals were, on separate incidents, unlawfully deported last week. The two whose names are Fleming Samunzala Siswaniso (47) and Vasco Kenneth Zaika (47) were both recognized refugees in the country. NamRights explains that the two were granted refugee status after they fled to Botswana in November 1998 following widespread and systematic human rights violations by Namibian security forces in the Caprivi Strip.

In a statement released yesterday (Monday) NamRights explains that while enjoying refugee status in Botswana, Siswaniso was arrested in 2008 for common assault, tried, convicted and sentenced to a two-year prison term from where he was released in 2010.

“However, upon his release from prison, Siswaniso was again detained this time around as a prohibited immigrant between 2016 and 2018. On November 29th 2018 he was brutally deported with both his legs and arms in chains. He was apparently handed over to the torturous Namibian police in Caprivi Strip. His present fate and whereabouts are unknown.

Zaika was also arrested in 2003, tried and convicted of statutory rape. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. However, although his prison term ended in 2013, Zaika continued to be held in custody as a prohibited immigrant. On December 7 2018 he was chained to both legs and arms before he was thrown into a police van. His present fate and whereabouts are also unknown,” a statement from NamRights explains .

It is for this that the human rights group are accusing the President Mokgweetsi Masisi  and his government of violating  its domestic law on asylum seekers and refugees.

“NamRights condemns the brutal and cruel treatment and forcible deportations of refugees in the Botswana. The government of President Mokgweetsi Masisi is guilty of manifestly flouting public international law relating to the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.This guilt is evinced by the systematic refoulement (i.e. forcible deportation) of refugees and asylum seekers in that country,” condemns the press release.

“ In recent days Botswana forcibly deported at least two Caprivi Strip nationals in blatant violations of both its own domestic legislation as well as the doctrine of non-refoulement as enshrined in International Human Rights Law (“IHRL”), International Humanitarian Law (“IHL”) and Customary International Law (“CIL”).

Botswana’s extradition legislation prohibits expulsion of refugees without having been afforded due process of the law. This includes the right to be heard before a competent authority prior to any deportation exercise. Forcible deportation of refugees and asylum seekers is, in any event, strictly prohibited under international human rights law to which both Botswana and Namibia are parties to.

Articles 3(1) of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (“UNCAT”) provides that:  “No State party shall expel and forcibly return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture”. Article 33(1) of the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees (“CSR”) provides that: “No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his [or her] life or freedom would be threatened on account of his [or her] race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”

Caprivans Spokesperson Felix Kakula  confirmed the two’s deportation, and revealed that   Siswaniso was deported just a few days before his case for being declared a prohibited immigrant was to be heard at Lobatse High Court

“Yes, it is true that there were some Caprivans that were deported last week and the other late last month. The two have been granted refugee status, and hence their deportation is a surprise for us. The worst part is that we do not even know about their whereabouts.  Siswaniso also had a case that was supposed to be heard on December 3rd at the Lobatse High Court, but he was deported just a few days before the case could take place,” said Kakula.

Minister of Defence and Security, Justice Shaw Kgathi, however said he was not aware of any Caprivian  deportation. Minister of Immigration Dorcus Makgato’s phone rang unanswered on Monday.