Discrimination against Indigenous Peoples, Illegal Immigrants, Refugees and Prohibited Immigrants.

At the 68th session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD), a review of the Botswana State Party report was held on 3-6 March 2006. On this occasion, DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, partner organisation of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), presented its shadow report.

This report raises concerns about indigenous peoples, illegal immigrants, refugees and prohibited immigrants who experience discrimination, particularly in the areas of access to justice, the death penalty and education. DITSHWANELO’s report highlights discriminatory policies against the indigenous peoples of Botswana - the Basarwa/San. They have faced, and they continue to face, several challenges to their human rights, including displacement from the lands which they had occupied and loss of livelihood. The Basarwa living in the CKGR have effectively been forcibly relocated from their homes by the Government since 1997. Furthermore, since the Government suspension of hunting inside the CKGR, those communities still living inside the CKGR have been forced to rely on gathering for their sustenance.

DITSHWANELO also states in the report that there is hostility towards illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe. Anti - Zimbabwean sentiments have increased within Botswana as many Batswana believe that Zimbabweans are responsible for the increasing rate of crime. DITSHWANELO also refers to police mistreatment of Zimbabweans, including threats, beatings and verbal abuse.

The report refers to discriminatory legal provisions in Government policies which apply to asylum seekers and refugees. DITSHWANELO calls for the reform of refugee legislation and its implementation in conformity with international obligations binding Botswana, notably the 1951 Convention relating to refugees.

DITSHWANELO also expresses serious concern about the relationship between poverty, ethnicity and access to justice in Botswana. Widespread poverty amongst the Basarwa limits their access to adequate legal representation and this has serious potential implications for the implementation of the death penalty.

DITSHWANELO calls upon the Government of Botswana to commit itself to ratify human rights instruments, especially the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Botswana should also submit its overdue reports to the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights), the Committee against Torture and the Human Rights Committee in accordance with its human rights obligations.

DITSHWANELO finally urges Botswana to invite the UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the UN Independent Expert on minority issues. Botswana should also invite the ACHPR Special Rapporteurs on refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons in Africa and on prisons and conditions of detention in Africa. These Special Rapporteurs would exercise their mandate and make their recommendations to the Government of Botswana.

Read more