Botswana urged to lift judges’ suspension


Amnesty International (AI) and SADC Lawyers’ Association have called on President Ian Khama to immediately re-instate the four suspended High Court Judges, if the independence of the judiciary is to be preserved.

The appeal followed a High Court judgement this week dismissing the judges’ case to have their suspension lifted.

Justices Key Dingake, Modiri Letsididi, Mercy Garekwe and Ranier Busang were suspended on August 28, 2015 for alleged misconduct and bringing the judiciary into disrepute.

This followed a petition signed by 12 judges, including the suspended four, calling for the impeachment of Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo.

“The suspension of the four judges over a petition against the Chief Justice constitutes serious interference with their freedom of expression and is a grave threat to judicial independence in Botswana. It appears that the judges were suspended because of their criticism of the Chief Justice.

If this is the case, it’s a clear attack on their freedom of expression which undermines the independence of the judiciary,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for Southern Africa.

Khama has disclosed in his court papers that he suspended the judges for undermining Dibotelo and bringing the judiciary into disrepute.

Khama suspended them after they challenged Justice Dibotelo’s move to report them to the police for receiving housing allowances while staying in official residences.

“The President of the Republic of Botswana currently holds the rotating position of chairperson of SADC. As such a lot is expected from the country in terms of leading from the front in observing human rights and the rule of law in the SADC region during this period,” said Makanatsa Makonese, executive secretary of the SADC Lawyers’ Association.

Makonese continued: “This case is about much more than the targeting of four judges and the curtailing of their freedom of expression and risks compromising the independence of the Judiciary.”

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