At the United Nations today, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) called on Botswana to abolish the death penalty.
During a debate on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations Human Rights Council, Joelle Fiss on behalf of the IHEU, pointed out that Botswana is the only southern African nation not to have abolished the death penalty and that earlier this year had hanged a man charged with murder.
During its UPR, Botswana had argued that its use of the death penalty was “not a human rights violation, or a form of torture, but rather a matter of criminal justice;” and that it retains “the sovereign right to independently decide on its own criminal justice system, including the retention of the death penalty.”
However, as the IHEU statement pointed out, the death penalty is a violation of the internationally legally protected right to life (as expressed by Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). Punishment by death is also a violation of Article 7 of the same covenant, which protects humans against “torture, cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment.”
The statement follows in full below:
International Humanist and Ethical Union
UN Human Rights Council, 38th Session (18th June – 6th July 2018)
General Debate on Item 6
On 17th February, exactly one month after Botswana’s review, a 28-year old Joseph Poni Tselayarona, was executed by hanging in Bostwana’s capital.
Botswana is the only southern African nation not to have abolished the death penalty. Whilst many countries in the region are moving away from this cruel form of punishment, Botswana seems to be regressing on this issue.
We recognise that Botswana has committed to hold public debates on the death penalty as an outcome of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR). However, we are deeply disappointed that it has failed to accept the many recommendations on imposing a moratorium or complete abolition.
We reject Botswana’s argument that the death penalty is not a human rights violation, or a form of torture, but rather a matter of criminal justice. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life – as protected by Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment – as protected by Article 7 of the same covenant.
In 2015, in relation to another hanging case in Botswana, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights determined that the use of hanging as a method of execution violated the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under Article 5 of the African Charter.
We take this opportunity to call on the government of Botswana to heed the UPR recommendations made by immediately establishing an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing this cruel and inhuman punishment.