Individuals must never be judge, jury and executioner

The recent comments made by the former president of Botswana, Ian Khama, justifying Botswana’s shoot-to-kill policies reflect his callous disregard for the rule of law.

The United Nations, so quick to talk about sanctioning nations that habitually violate human rights, is silent on the despotic acts by the Botswanan Defense Force (BDF).

The tragic loss of life of the four Namibians is a wake-up call about what has been quietly going on for years. Botswana is a lawless nation and should not be allowed to continue its affairs as if they are not accountable for their actions. No country must ever empower its soldiers to be judge, jury and executioner for any reason whatsoever.

Botswana is in violation of International Law with its shoot-to-kill policy for suspected poachers. This must be said bluntly. Sanctions must be considered against Botswana as a rogue nation.

Namibia’s failure to condemn them under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a UN Member state is a concern.

UN Resolutions are not optional. They weigh on each UN Member State as an obligation.

“Article 8. Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 10. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11. (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to the law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.

In other words, anyone accused of a crime MUST HAVE A TRIAL! This is democracy 101 and Botswana failed miserably.

Our government is fast to say that anyone locally who has been accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Why is that not applied to Botswana? Those four men were innocent until proven guilty. They needed to be arrested, the evidence presented, given the right to defend themselves and then judged by an independent court of law. Anything short of this is barbaric and unjust.

Where are the various international courts that scream so loudly at an African dictator accused of violating human rights? They are quiet at complete lawlessness that legitimizes state-sponsored murder in Botswana?

The Gaborone government and its individual leaders should be a candidate for international sanctions should they persist in their despotic shoot-to-kill policy.

There is a purpose for laws and courts. Obviously, Botswana believes that courts are meaningless. There is no ‘halfway’ democracy and the rule of law only ‘sometimes’. You cannot cherry-pick when and where the laws are followed.

SADC and the AU are too quiet about sanctioned murder in Botswana. Regional and continent-wide self-policing or peer review mechanisms are a joke. African states are unable to rise above their “African Big Man” and “old boy” network to call out one another when justice is so blatantly trampled.

The four Namibian men were executed in cold blood by a country that everyone points to as a stable democracy. If that is the face of ‘stability’ God help us all. Reports by Namibian investigators notwithstanding, executions of individuals declared guilty by random border police is a human rights violation.

What next will the trigger-happy Botswanan soldiers who have a blank cheque for murder, do? Maybe someone washing clothes on the riverbank will be branded as a look-out for poachers and shot in the head by Khama and Masisi’s stormtroopers. Or BDF soldiers extort money from those legally fishing in a particular area, threatening murder as poachers if they don’t pay up. The unchecked power being given to soldiers will be corrupted. It could be happening already. The completely innocent will be buried alongside the presumed guilty with no witnesses and applause for the killers.

Here is an ugly truth. If four white people were caught doing the exact same thing as the four Namibians, they would not have been killed. It is the rights of black people they disdain.

Botswana must be sanctioned internationally until their shoot-to-kill policy is changed. The family of those murdered must go to the international courts and file a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit. That country has violated the UN Declaration of Human Rights which they signed. They must be punished severely lest more lives are lost due to state-sponsored murder. Botswana’s soldier-judges, juries and executioners must be stopped.

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