Botswana: arrangement among judges and executive brings hope for restoration of judicial functioning

The ICJ expressed its hope today that an arrangement reached between four judges of the High Court and Botswanan President Ian Khama along with Chief Justice Dibotelo would serve to restore the effective functioning of the High Court and its critical role in the administration of justice.

The settlement resulted in Justices Key Dingake, Modiri Letsididi, Ranier Busang and Mercy Garekwe withdrawing a petition and letter they had written complaining about what they considered to be a range of deficiencies in the justice system, as well as a failure of leadership in judicial administration.

The President and executive, for its part, discontinued pursing allegations of misconduct and bringing the name of the judiciary into disrepute against the judges and disestablished the impeachment tribunal that had been set up to try them.

The ICJ had previously expressed its concern about the process of the impeachment of the judges and the impact of the impeachment proceedings on judicial independence and impartiality in Botswana.

The ICJ was also concerned that impeachment proceedings would not accord with the principles of the right to fair trial.

“This settlement paves the way for the four judges to resume their normal duties,” said Arnold Tsunga Director of the ICJ.

“The Botswana executive and judicial officials charged with administration of the justice can now focus their attention on addressing the very real challenges facing the justice system in the country,” Tsunga added.

The ICJ reminds the Botswana authorities of their duty to guarantee the independence, impartiality and accountability of the judiciary under international law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, treaties to which Botswana is a party.


Arnold Tsunga, ICJ Regional Director for Africa, t: +27 716405926or +263 777 283 249; e: arnold.tsunga(a)


The ICJ recalls that the four judges were suspended under section 97 of the Botswana Constitution on allegations of misconduct and bringing the name of the judiciary into disrepute.

The suspension was precipitated by a signed petition directed to the Chief Justice. In the petition the judges objected, among other things, to alleged poor conditions of service, as well as disparaging comments the Chief Justice was said have made about another judge’s ethnicity and defamatory statements related to corruption.

The petition also advocated for the Chief Justice’s impeachment and was copied to all judges of the High Court.

The Chief Justice and the President took issue with the contents and tone of the petition, alleging it to be disrespectful of the Chief Justice and causing disrepute of the judiciary in the eyes of members of the public.

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