Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were reports of police using such tactics. For example, in October a family reportedly accused the police of torturing their 28-year-old son to death while in police custody. The police confirmed an individual had died, and investigations were ongoing. Some laws prescribe corporal punishment for offenders. Some human rights groups viewed these provisions as cruel and degrading; the Court of Appeals ruled these provisions do not violate the constitution’s provisions on torture or inhuman treatment.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards.
Physical Conditions: Authorities occasionally held juveniles with adults, although only for a few days while the juveniles awaited transport.
The Francistown Center for Illegal Immigrants (FCII) is a dedicated facility for processing asylum and other immigration claims by individuals who entered the country illegally. In December 2017 the INK Center for Investigative Journalism detailed allegations of authorities abusing asylum seekers in the FCII. International observers noted women and children were housed in tents that provided insufficient protection from heat, cold, and wind. There was no school at the center, and international observers expressed concern some children were separated from parents at a young age.
Administration: Authorities investigated credible allegations of inhumane conditions brought by inmates against prison officials and took disciplinary or judicial action against persons responsible for abuses. The law requires the minister of defense, justice, and security to appoint a committee to visit prisons on a quarterly basis, and allows religious authorities to visit with prisoners. Prisoners in general may also attend religious services.
Independent Monitoring: The government generally allowed international and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to meet with prisoners and permitted independent human rights observers to visits prisons. The International Committee of the Red Cross visited prisons. In August diplomatic missions and UNICEF visited the FCII.
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
The Botswana Police Service (BPS), under the Ministry of Defense, Justice, and
Security, has primary responsibility for internal security. The Botswana Defense Force (BDF), which reports to the president through the minister of defense, justice, and security, is responsible for external security and has some domestic security responsibilities. The Directorate for Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), under the Office of the President, collects and evaluates external and internal intelligence, provides personal protection to high-level government officials, and advises the presidency and government on matters of national security. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the BPS, BDF, and DISS, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving security forces.
BPS officers received human rights training at the country’s International Law Enforcement Academy.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
Police must produce an arrest warrant issued by a duly authorized magistrate upon the presentation of compelling evidence, except in certain cases, such as when an officer witnesses a crime being committed or discovers a suspect is in possession of a controlled substance. DISS personnel have the power to enter premises and make arrests without warrants if the agency suspects a person has committed or is about to commit a crime. While some civil society representatives criticized DISS under the Khama administration, claiming it did not receive sufficient independent oversight and posed a potential threat to civil liberties, observers generally welcomed the replacement of the DISS director and increased media engagement under President Masisi.
The law requires authorities to inform suspects of their rights upon arrest, including the right to remain silent, and to file charges before a magistrate within 48 hours. Authorities generally respected these rights. There were no reports of denial of a suspect’s right to an attorney during the first 48 hours after arrest and arraignment before a magistrate. A magistrate may order a suspect held for 14 days through a writ of detention, which may be renewed every 14 days. The law provides for a prompt judicial determination of the legality of a person’s detention.
Heavy court caseloads occasionally delayed this determination. Authorities generally informed detainees of the reason for their detention, although there were some complaints this did not always occur. There is a functioning bail system, and detention without bail was unusual except in murder cases, where it is mandatory. Detainees have the right to contact a family member and hire attorneys of their choice, but most could not afford legal counsel. There were no reports authorities held suspects incommunicado or under house arrest.
Pretrial Detention: A writ of pretrial detention is valid for 14 days and is renewable every 14 days. Some detainees, however, waited several weeks or months between the filing of charges and the start of their trials. Pretrial detention in murder, rape, livestock theft, and robbery cases sometimes exceeded a year, but there were no reports of instances in which the length of detention equaled or exceeded the sentences actually imposed. Delays were largely due to judicial staffing shortages and a backlog of pending cases.
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence.
The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, and authorities generally informed them promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation from the moment charged through all appeals if he or she cannot understand the language of the court. Trials in the civil courts are public, although trials under the National Security Act may be secret. Defendants have the right to be present and consult with an attorney in a timely manner. In capital cases the government provides legal counsel, or private attorneys work pro bono for indigent clients. Courts tried those charged with noncapital crimes without legal representation if they could not afford an attorney. As a result, many defendants were not aware of their procedural rights in pretrial or trial proceedings. Defendants may question witnesses against them. Defendants may present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense and to appeal. Defendants are not compelled to testify or confess guilt. The constitution states these rights extend to all citizens. Some NGOs provided limited, free legal assistance.
In addition to the civil court system, a customary or traditional court system also exists. According to traditional practice, a tribal chief presides over most small villages. While customary (traditional) courts enjoyed widespread citizen support and respect, they often did not afford the same due process protections as the formal court system. Although defendants may confront, question, and present witnesses in customary court proceedings, they do not have legal counsel, and there are no standardized rules of evidence. Customary trials are open to the public, and defendants may present evidence on their own behalf. Tribal judges, appointed by the tribal leader or elected by the community, determine sentences. Many tribal judges were poorly trained. The quality of decisions reached in the customary courts varied considerably, and defendants often lacked a presumption of innocence. Tribal judges applied corporal punishment, such as lashings on the buttocks, more often than did civil courts. Those convicted in customary courts may file appeals through the civil court system.
A separate military court system does not try civilians. Military courts have separate procedures from civil courts. Defendants in military courts are able to retain private attorneys at their own expense and view evidence to be used against them. Defendants in military court can have their cases transferred to the civilian judicial system. Additionally, military personnel can take other military personnel to civilian civil court.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
In the formal judicial system, there is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, including for human rights cases, which includes a separate industrial court for most labor-related cases. Administrative remedies were not widely available. By mutual agreement of the parties involved, customary courts, which handle land, marital, and property disputes, tried most civil cases; they often did not afford the same due process protections as the formal judicial system. The country has not ratified the protocol that established the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, although individuals and organizations may file complaints regarding domestic decisions with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.