THE South African government will not intervene to save South African Mariette Bosch, who allegedly shot her best friend to marry her husband, from the gallows in Botswana.
However, the Cape High Court is considering an application by Tanzanian national Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, the man allegedly responsible for the bomb that destroyed the United States embassy in Dar es Salaam three years ago, to save him from death row.
Mohamed’s lawyers brought an urgent application to the court asking to have the terms of his extradition modified to ensure that he is not executed. The argument is that South Africa was bound by its Constitution to make it a condition of his extradition that Mohammed not be sentenced to death and failed to do so.
In Botswana Bosch awaits her fate. Her appeal against conviction for murder failed and, failing a clemency plea, she will be hung.
To date the South African government’s involvement in the case, other than the assistance provided through the South African consulate in Botswana, has been purely as a spectator. The government’s stance has its roots in the principle of respect for another state’s sovereignty.
“South African prisoners held in other countries are provided for by the consulate services and this is the only service we offer,” explains Robert McBride, head of operation services in the Department of Foreign Affairs. These services include aiding the prisoner to communicate with her family and ensuring a fair trial.
The South African Prisoners’ Organisation for Human Rights has attempted to help Bosch by penning an urgent letter to Botswana’s President Festus Mogae, pleading with his government to reverse the death penalty imposed on Bosch.
“This is not the South African government’s tradition – all governments in the world have the same principle of non-interference in another country’s sovereignty. It is an international convention,” says McBride.
Lawyers for Human Rights national director Dr Vinodh Jaichand insists the South African government could have put in a lot more effort on the quiet diplomacy side.
“[Lawyers for Human Rights] has always taken the stance that abolition of the death penalty is in keeping with both the international norms and a necessary requirement for our criminal justice system with regard to punishment,” says Jaichand.
Jaichand says the government should not be prescriptive of neighbouring countries’ criminal justice systems, but adds that countries like Botswana should consider the emerging international norm on the anti-death penalty issue.
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