UN Rights Body Warns Botswana Against Intrusive Surveillance

UN Rights Body Warns Botswana Against Intrusive Surveillance
SundayStandard, Khonani Ontebetse


Faye Bogte

Research Intern

Global Human Rights Defence

The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) released in its report on Friday 11 November the findings on Botswana’s increased monitoring of online activities and intrusive use of intelligence methods by State Security and intelligence agencies, including as part of Covid-19 state-of-emergency measures, which violate the right to privacy of citizens. In the report, the Committee was concerned about the lack of oversight mechanisms and sufficient safeguards against arbitrary interference with the right to privacy in relation to surveillance and interception activities by State authorities. 

Next to setting out the violations, the report contained recommendations which stated that Botswana should ensure that all types of surveillance activities and interference with privacy are governed by appropriate legislation that conform with article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). surveillance and interception should be conducted subject to judicial authorization and effective and independent oversight mechanisms, as well as proper access to effective remedies in cases of abuse for victims. 

The report further contained concerns the undue restriction of the freedom of expression and access to information, and specifically noted by the Committee the lack of provisions in domestic legislation to protect journalists and human rights defenders. A recommendation set out on this matter is for Botswana to ensure that any restriction on the exercise of freedom of expression to comply with the strict requirements of article 19(3) of the ICCPR, and to decriminalize defamation. 

Sources and further reading 

Khonani Ontebetse (15 November 2021). UN Rights Body Warns Botswana Against Intrusive Surveillance. Sunday Standard. https://www.sundaystandard.info/un-rights-body-warns-botswana-against-intrusive-surveillance/

United Nations (General Assembly). (1966). International Covenant on Civil and Political Rigths. Treaty Series, 999, 171. Art. 17, art. 19(3).