Mmegi Online :: Cops fined for illegally deporting Ugandans
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Cops fined for illegally deporting Ugandans

FRANCISTOWN: Two police officers who played a role in the recent illegal deportation of two Ugandan refugees, were on Tuesday found guilty of contempt of court and fined P3,000 or six months in jail.
By Lebogang Mosikare Thu 10 Dec 2015, 09:43 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Cops fined for illegally deporting Ugandans








The two Ugandans were booted out of the country under controversial circumstances recently, as the High Court had issued an order barring their deportation, pending the finalisation of a legal case the duo was waging in pursuit of staying in Botswana.

In the wake of the deportation, lawyers representing the Ugandans demanded that the High Court find the commissioners of the Botswana Police Service and Prisons and Rehabilitation, five police officers and an immigration officer, guilty of  contempt of court and make them face imprisonment.

On Tuesday, Justice Lot Moroka found Sergeant Dumilani Setlhako and Constable Ketsweletse Molebatsi guilty of preventing the Ugandan’s attorney, Martin Dingake, access to consult with his clients, contrary to Moroka’s order of October 23.

Passing judgement on Tuesday, Moroka noted that both police officers had testified that they had acted under instruction from their superiors.

“Both told the court that they acted under instructions from their superiors who had told them that Dingake was to come on a Monday to consult with his clients and not a weekend,” Moroka said.

“This evidence is at variance with what another respondent had deposed to in her confirmatory affidavit and this therefore suggests that the truth was withheld from this court in its enquiry on the contempt allegations.”

Moroka said both policemen were “lowly ranked officers susceptible to command and instruction”.

“In the distribution of culpability, the higher the rank, the higher the culpability

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and the lower the rank, the lower the culpability. Therefore their punishment shall take their ranks into account,” the judge said.

Moroka had stern words for the state, saying when those defying court orders are state officials, the violation is “even more serious”.

“The state must obey its own institutions. The state ought to act as role model for its citizens in respecting the law.  It is quite clear from the evidence in mitigation that there was an invisible hand directing the conduct of the respondents.

“The respondents insulated this invisible hand from scrutiny by taking responsibility for the actions.

“They cannot now attribute their conduct to someone else,” he said.

When mitigating, the two policemen said they had been following the orders of the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport station commander and had fallen foul of the law in the process.

Speaking after the policemen were sentenced, Dingake said he felt that the punishment was not enough to deter similar occurrences in future.

“I will not rest until I know the invisible hand behind the refugees’ deportations and the reasons for their deportation,” he said.

Moroka recently absolved the Attorney General, Athaliah Molokomme, of wrongdoing in the matter, saying it had not been shown how she violated the court order. Similarly, the police and prisons commissioners were let off the hook as the contempt of court order was not served on them personally.

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