Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) intends to drag government to court for failing to honour a High Court order on access to Anti-retroviral treatment by foreign prisoners.
In August last year, Justice Bengbame Sechele of the Gaborone High Court declared the government’s policy of refusing ARVs to foreign prisoners irrational, unlawful and unconstitutional and ordered the government to immediately provide all foreign prisoners who meet the treatment criteria with ARVs at state expense.
The Attorney General appealed the decision and, in the interim, the High Court has refused a stay on the judgment’s execution.
This means that the August 2014 order is enforceable until it is overturned by the Court of Appeal, if at all.
The case is expected to be heard at the Court of Appeal mid July. BONELA Executive Director, Cindy Kelemi, told The Voice this afternoon that her organization intends to file for contempt before the appeal hearing.
“Our decision is informed by the case of Gift Mwale who was going through a criminal case and needed ARV treatment but government refused to assist. We lodged an urgent case but it was dismissed because it was deemed not urgent,” she said.
BONELA this week issued a press statement calling on HIV-positive foreign prisoners in Botswana in need of ARV treatment to make contact with the organisation.
“This is not only a matter of life and death. But it is a matter of the rule of law,” Kelemi said and added: “Government, and all persons involved in the physical care of prisoners and persons in detention in Botswana are obliged by order of Court to provide ARVs to non-citizen prisoners who meet the treatment criteria.”
BONELA’s efforts to engage the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security as well as the Prisons department on non-compliance, Kelemi said, have so far been futile. “We are therefore calling on prisoners in need or treatment or their families to contact BONELA.”
Apart from the litigation, Kelemi said, her organization intended to establish a database of the prisoners in need of ARVs.
“Because prisons are a closed environment, it is difficult to determine how many people are falling within this treatment gap. We wish to gather the information of persons in need of care that we can assess whether we are able to assist them legally to access care and to monitor whether the government is complying with the law. We undertake to treat all information given to BONELA with the utmost confidence,” she concluded.