The United Nations (UN), Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has raised concerns over lack of development and implementation of a legal framework of arbitrary detention in Botswana.
In a statement that followed last week's visit to Botswana’s detention centres, the UN stated that while Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework,
The UN working group that is made of experts observed that most of those subject to criminal proceedings are not represented by lawyers.
The group stated that legal aid in Botswana is generally available only in civil matters and for those facing capital punishment.
“Lawyers are excluded from investigative interviews. This is a significant impediment to protecting the freedom from arbitrary detention.
“The role of lawyers in safeguarding against instances of arbitrary detention needs to be entrenched in law and in practice in Botswana,” the experts said.
To further its efforts to divert boys and girls from the criminal justice system, the experts also urged the Government to effectively employ measures of dispositions including counselling, education and vocational training and other alternatives to institutional care.
The Working Group expressed serious concern over Botswana’s policy to automatically detain irregular migrants, often indefinitely and in dire conditions.
“Detention in the course of migration must be an exception and is only permissible for the shortest period of time, following an individualised assessment of the need to detain,” the experts said.
The Working Group is comprised of five independent expert members from various regions of the world.
They include among others Chair-Rapporteur Miriam Estrada-Castillo, Vice Chair from Zambia Mumba Malila and Matthew Gillet from New Zealand.