The Attorney General on Wednesday evening filed an urgent application before the High Court for a stay of execution of an order granted in August 2014, in which the government was ordered to provide antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to foreign prisoners. The August 2014 order is currently on appeal in the Court of Appeal.
The urgent application follows the launch of separate proceedings by a non-citizen prisoner who has filed contempt of court proceedings against the Attorney General, for failing to comply with the August 2014 order. The August 2014 order required that all HIV-positive foreign inmates in Botswana be granted effective access to ARV treatment. The Director of Health Services, in yesterday’s application to stay the order’s execution, states that the country is not prepared logistically and administratively to provide foreign inmates with ARVs, despite that it already provides the treatment to citizen prisoners.
The Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) legal advisor Ms Keikantse Phele said, “this is a step backwards in upholding constitutional protections. The state is failing to protect human rights. The stay of execution application comes after the state has failed to comply with an order of court for almost seven months.”
Ms Annabel Raw, from the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which is supporting the prisoners’ case said, “The only urgency in this matter is for HIV-positive inmates who are in need of treatment to be provided with ARVs immediately. The ongoing failure to treat foreign prisoners puts their lives at risk and undermines public health.”