The SADC Lawyers’ Association (SADCLA) has received disturbing reports of the 8th September, 2014 arrest of Outsa Mokone, the Editor of the Botswana Sunday Standard, on the charge of “seditious intention” contrary to section 50 (1) read together with section 51(1)(C) of the Penal Code of Botswana for an article printed on 1st September, 2014 in the Sunday Standard titled, “President hit in car accident while driving alone”.
While Mokone has now been released from police custody on bail, the SADCLA is gravely concerned over reports that 1) while in police custody Mokone was denied access to legal counsel from the afternoon of 8th September, 2014 until the early morning hours of 9thSeptember, 2014; and 2) the Senior Editor of Sunday Standard and author of the article in question, Edgar Tsimane, has fled – in fear for his life - to the Republic of South Africa where he has been granted temporary asylum.
Access to, and assistance of, legal counsel to protect and establish the rights of an accused and to defend them in all stages of criminal proceedings, and the freedoms of conscience and expression are universally recognised rights, which are respectively guaranteed in Articles 10(d), 11 and 12 of The Constitution of the Republic of Botswana. From all appearances, Mokone’s arrest and the subsequent criminal charge are contrary to these rights and freedoms. In this regard, the SADCLA calls upon the authorities in Botswana to accord Mokone his constitutional rights before, throughout and after his trial.
In the same vein, a democratic state promotes, upholds and protects the unfettered enjoyment and exercise of rights and freedoms – this includes the free exchange of ideas, open debate and even criticism of the establishment. So as the country prepares to go to the polls in October 2014, the SADCLA further calls on authorities in Botswana to respect the Constitution and to work towards fostering an enabling environment for the free exercise of rights and freedoms in Botswana.
Issued by and for the SADC Lawyers’ Association: