The Botswana Centre for Human Rights joins the world in commemorating the Annual World Day Against the Death Penalty on 10 October 2015. This is the 13th annual commemoration globally, since the inaugural events by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty on 10 October 2003. 10 October is the date used to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty.
The global theme of this year’s commemoration is “The Death Penalty Does Not Stop Drug Crimes”. This theme seeks to raise awareness about the application of the death penalty for drug-related offences.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) opposes the death penalty for drug offences. International human rights law stipulates that the death penalty may only be legally applied for the “most serious crimes”. The UN’s Human Rights Committee has affirmed on a number of occasions, its view that drug offences do not fall into this category.
During the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Botswana in January 2013, the Government of Botswana accepted the recommendation made for it to hold a public debate on the death penalty, in which all aspects of the issue should be highlighted in a holistic manner. During the report-back about the deferred recommendations in June 2013, the government did not accept the recommendation to abolish the death penalty. However, it “committed itself to undertake educational awareness campaigns before it can consider the abolition of the death penalty”.
As part of the Universal Periodic Review process, DITSHWANELO will host three events between September and October 2015 to commemorate the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty. On 8 October, there will be a radio phone-in programme with Father Andrew Muderer and Reverend Maste Matlhaope on Yarona FM at 10 am. The discussion will focus on the death penalty, including faith and psychological issues. On 9 October, a debate will be held at the University of Botswana (UB) Library Auditorium. The theme is “The fallibility of the legal system – is it foolproof?” Participates will include a local lawyer Mr Kgosi Ngakaagae, Mr Akanyang Korong from Botswana Institute for Rehabilitation and Integration of Offenders (BIRRO) and UB students.
On 12 October, there will be a “Couch Conversation” at Maitisong theatre (Maru-a-Pula School), which will tackle the theme “Wrongful Convictions, Wrongful Executions”. Speakers will include Justice Charles Mkandawire (Malawi), local lawyer Mr Unoda Mack and Mr Akanyang Korong from (BIRRO). The events at the UB and Maitisong will both begin at 6.00 p.m and end at 9.00 p.m.
DITSHWANELO reiterates that the use of the death penalty as a form of punishment is retributive and not restorative or rehabilitative.
The death penalty directly contradicts the value of botho, a concept enshrined in Botswana’s Vision 2016, which calls upon Botswana to be a “Compassionate, Caring and Just Nation”. We believe that a response to the crime of murder should include both punishment of the offender as well as the healing of the families of both the victim and the offender. This comprehensive approach will ultimately contribute to the healing of the community.
Statement on World Day Against the Death Penalty 10 October 2015