The Botswana Network on Ethics Law & HIV/AIDS (BONELA) notes with great concern the Ministry of Justice Defence & Security’s demand for an apology from the Chairman of the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) for what was a clear exercise of a constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression when he delivered his address on behalf of the Law Society of Botswana at the Opening of the Legal Year 2016 Ceremony on the 2nd February 2016.
BONELA expects Government to promote greater respect for human rights including freedom of expression, by leading by example; it is in this context that BONELA urges the Government of Botswana to desist from any act that might even seem as an attempt to thwart the exercise of constitutional rights and send a message of intolerability of dissenting views. Furthermore the futile attempt by government to harm the reputation of the Law Society of Botswana by accusing the Chairman of having delivered a racist and xenophobic speech is appalling and exposes the government’s misconstruction of the Chairman’s address who on the rule of law, spoke about the need for protection of the rights of refugees and foreign professionals in Botswana.
As a human rights organisation that does a considerable amount of advocacy on issues of national importance, BONELA will not be dissuaded to continue to mount constructive criticism on government policies whenever the need arises due to fear of encountering the same response currently directed at the Law Society of Botswana for exercising its right to freedom of expression and speech. In conclusion, BONELA declares its support for the Law Society of Botswana for its admirable address at the opening of the legal year, emblematic of its oversight role in the protection of human rights. We urge the civil society to continue to speak on issues that affect the nation without fear or favour, as remaining silent would be a disservice to the nation.