Botswana continues with cruel and regressive execution

Press release

Gaborone - Paris, 19 February 2018 – Two days ago, the Botswana prison service announced the execution by hanging of Mr. Joseph Poni Tselayarona, after a year on death row. FIDH strongly condemns this execution, which has been carried out secretly (as all executions are in Botswana) in violation with the basic standards of human rights and contrarily to the abolitionist trend in Africa.

Less than a year ago, Joseph Poni Tselayarona was sentenced to 20 years of prison for the murder of his girlfriend, and to the death penalty for the murder of her child. His appeal was dismissed on 23 November 2017. The execution of Mr. Poni by hanging was carried out in total secrecy and no prior information given to his family, relatives, and lawyers, who were unable to meet with him. The application of the death penalty in Botswana amounts to a particular inhuman sentence and treatment of the accused and his relatives.

“We condemn the constant failure of the authorities to give prisoners sufficient notice about the death warrant and the date and time of execution. Similarly failing to inform the prisoners’ family members accordingly, in order to allow them a last visit to the prisoner is unacceptable.” affirmed Ms Florence Bellivier, FIDH Deputy Secretary General.

“The application of the death penalty is unacceptable. The State has blatantly disregarded appeals for a moratorium or abolition of the death penalty in Botswana. Despite its cultural background based on botho and traditional communal forgiveness, the Botswana State has constantly chosen a retributionist approach which creates more pain and suffering in the society.” said Alice Mogwe, FIDH Secretary General and Director of DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights

This unexpected execution comes at a time, when almost 80 % of African countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. Botswana is the only southern African nation that has not abolished the death penalty and that keeps executing. On the African continent, capital punishment is clearly on the decline and the African Commission of Human and People’s Rights has submitted, for adoption to the African Union a draft Protocol for the abolition of death penalty in all of Africa.
FIDH urges the Botswana authorities to immediately remove mandatory death sentences, halt executions and engage in a national dialogue on the issue of the death penalty with a view to attain its abolition. Botswana recommitted to holding such a dialogue, during its most recent Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session before the Human Rights Council on 17 January 2018.
FIDH and DITSHWANELO, members of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, reiterate their absolute opposition to the death penalty for all crimes and in any circumstances.

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