The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, Ditshwanelo, says there is an urgent need for clear criteria or policy guidelines for the granting of Presidential Pardons.
This follows the recent pardoning of Gotshosamang Sechele, Ronny Matako and Boitshoko Maifala who were convicted of the murder of the late John Kalafatis on 9 June 2011 which the centre feels is inappropriate.
In a statement, Ditshwanelo said while there do not appear to be any criteria for the granting of such a pardon in our law, pardons are generally considered where they will be beneficial to society or in cases where ‘the public welfare will be served by inflicting less punishment than the courts have decided’
The centre gave an example of South Africa where there are internal policy guidelines which are taken into consideration when applications for pardons are processed. These include, the age of the offender at the time of the offence, whether a reasonable period of time has elapsed since the conviction, the interest of the State and the community and the interests of the victim, if any amongst others.
“Without an official statement from the Office of the President explaining the ‘conditional pardon’, Ditshwanelo is not convinced that such executive action can be said to be in the interests of either the State or the community. The safeguarding of the community should be an important factor when a Presidential Pardon is considered for those who were found guilty of such a serious offence.’ Reads the statement
It said as a society which is committed to the Tswana value of ‘botho’, it is important that people be treated with dignity.
“Lack of sensitivity and inappropriate behaviour, have often unfortunately become the hallmark of engagement in our criminal justice system. Families who have suffered loss are forgotten in the midst of official procedures. Families of those who are executed after being found guilty of murder and sentenced to death, are not notified before the execution occurs. Instead, they learn of the execution after it has been effected – often in an official news bulletin on the radio. The family of the late John Kalafatis, had no prior knowledge of the Presidential Pardon. They too, learnt of it after it had been effected – during the radio discussion on 5 June 2012. What has happened to our ‘botho’?, it questioned
Ditshwanelo said while it appreciates the constitutional principle of a Presidential Pardon, it recognises the need for safeguards to ensure that no President uses arbitrary selectivity, acts in bad faith or is wrongly perceived to have done so.
“Ditshwanelo calls upon the Office of the President to ensure that the public is officially informed about such decisions, including the criteria or guidelines which are taken into consideration.”