U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Botswana
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Botswana, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa220.html [accessed 23 September 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
BOTSWANABotswana is a long-standing, multiparty democracy. Constitutional power is shared between the President, Sir Ketumile Masire, and the 44-member, popularly elected lower house of Parliament. The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) continued to dominate the National Assembly, holding 31 of 44 seats. The opposition Botswana National Front (BNF) holds the remaining 13 seats. In October 1994, the President was reelected in free and fair elections for a third 5-year term. The Government respects the constitutional provisions for an independent judiciary. The civilian Government exercises effective control over the security forces. The military, the Botswana Defense Force (BDF), is responsible for external security. The Botswana National Police (BNP) are responsible for internal security. Members of the security forces occasionally committed human rights abuses. The economy is market oriented with strong encouragement for private enterprise. Healthy diamond revenues and effective economic and fiscal policies resulted in improved growth, with the economy growing at a robust annual rate of approximately 7 percent following a downturn from 1991 to 1993. Per capita gross domestic product was approximately $2,800 in 1997. Over 50 percent of the population is employed in the informal sector, largely subsistence farming and animal husbandry. Rural poverty remains a serious problem, as does a widely skewed income distribution. The Constitution provides for citizens' human rights, and the Government generally respects those rights in practice, although there were some continuing problems. There were credible reports that the police sometimes mistreated criminal suspects in order to obtain evidence or coerce confessions. The authorities have taken action in some cases against persons responsible for abuses. In many instances the judicial system did not provide timely fair trials due to a serious backlog of cases. Women continued to face legal and societal discrimination, and violence against women is a continuing problem. The Government met with nongovernmental organizations (NGO?s) to formulate a long-term plan of action to implement its national policy on women, which is designed to address these problems. Some Batswana, including groups not numbered among the eight "principal tribes" identified in the Constitution because they live in remote areas, still do not enjoy full access to social services and, in practice, are marginalized in the political process. Trade unions continued to face some legal restrictions, and the Government did not always ensure that labor laws were observed in practice. The Government continued to address human rights problems. There were instances of abuse by police, including intimidation of suspects to obtain evidence or elicit confessions. Parliament ratified nine international labor conventions and adopted national policies on children and on care of the disabled. However, the Government's 1995 plan to construct a separate detention facility for asylum seekers whose refugee claims have been rejected continued to be delayed pending resolution of a dispute between two government ministries over development of the property. The facility is referred to by the Government as the Center for Illegal Immigrants. Until the Center is completed, refused asylum seekers continue to be detained in prison. Refugees and asylum seekers refused under Botswana's "first country of asylum" policy are housed at Dukwe Refugee Camp.