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SURVIVAL INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

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  • shajopri
    1 September 2005 BOTSWANA: COURT IN CHAOS - GOVERNMENT LAWYER ARRESTED - BUSHMAN RESERVE SEALED OFF The Botswana government s lead attorney in the Bushman
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2005
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      1 September 2005

      BOTSWANA: COURT IN CHAOS - GOVERNMENT LAWYER 'ARRESTED' - BUSHMAN
      RESERVE SEALED OFF

      The Botswana government's lead attorney in the Bushman case was
      today
      ordered to be arrested and imprisoned. In some of the most
      extraordinary scenes ever witnessed in any high court, attorney
      Sidney Pilane, refusing to allow any policeman to touch him, fled
      arrest in a vehicle driven by another government witness, the
      Assistant Director of Parks. In a separate development, the
      government announced the closure of the Bushmen's reserve to
      visitors
      for 'administrative reasons'.

      As special advisor to the President, Pilane may be hoping that his
      power surpasses that of the Botswana judiciary. He repeatedly
      refused
      to stand up when the judges were speaking to him. He was warned
      twice
      that unless he did so he would be cited for contempt. He still
      refused to stand up, leaving the court little alternative than to
      commit him to prison.

      The court ordered he should be arrested immediately and brought back
      to court on Monday morning. This was the climax of Pilane's
      examination of the state's star 'expert witness', American ecologist
      and former employee of the Botswana government, Kathleen Alexander.
      Pilane was questioning her on material that the judges had already
      ruled should not be discussed. (A minute-by-minute account of this
      morning's events in court is appended below.)

      Alexander had already made no secret of her contempt for tribal
      peoples and hunter-gatherers. She wants them all out of any
      protected
      areas in order to favour the animal inhabitants. Echoing remarks
      made
      by the president, she said that they had to evolve, claiming that
      'culture' had nothing to do with ancestral land and they could
      practise it anywhere.

      Amongst her asides was her comparison of inbreeding amongst animals
      'to what happened to the ruling elite in England. The Queen's people
      would stay together and not mix.' Although she claims to want
      everyone out of all protected areas, she herself lectures to
      American
      tourists - inside game reserves - who each pay US$10,000, plus tips,
      for their trip.

      Reacting to the fact that one of the Bushman's lawyers is British
      and
      that their case is funded by donations raised internationally,
      Pilane
      last week said, 'We do not want Europe to interfere and tell us what
      to do or not to do. We resent their involvement in our affairs. They
      should leave us alone.' The Bushman case is already the longest and
      most costly in Botswana's history, despite being brought by the
      country's poorest inhabitants.

      A severe crackdown on the Bushmen was revealed by Survival last
      week.
      One of those recently tortured for hunting has died, others have
      been
      arrested, their own organisation has been barred from their reserve,
      and so have their lawyers. Guards have been posted around the
      reserve
      to stop Bushmen returning home. The government has even changed the
      country's constitution, removing what Bushman protection it
      enshrined.

      Today, the government reinforced its determination to remove the
      Bushmen and end their way of life by announcing that no visitors
      would be allowed into their reserve, 'for administrative reasons',
      until further notice. Bushmen who have defied the government and
      returned to their lands after being thrown out in 2002 have been
      barred from using radio transmitters to talk to the outside world.
      From now on, whatever happens to the Bushmen in the Reserve will
      take
      place behind closed doors.

      The government is clearly angered by the international media which
      has reported extensively on its attacks on the Bushmen. The latest
      journalists to go in were from the BBC TV's most prestigious news
      programme, 'Newsnight'.

      In response to the latest developments, Survival today called for a
      total boycott of Botswana tourism and of its diamonds, mined and
      sold
      by the government and De Beers.

      Stephen Corry, Survival's director, said today, 'History is now
      being
      written. The destruction of so many American Indians and Australian
      Aborigines are some of the most shameful chapters in the history of
      recent centuries. If the Botswana government is not brought to its
      senses very quickly now, our own century will see the calculated and
      deliberate destruction of the central Kalahari Bushmen.
      Unfortunately
      none of the signs are good. The government is already on trial in
      its
      own country. Its own lawyer has fled arrest. If the court buckles,
      then this trial spells more than the end of the Gana and Gwi
      Bushmen.
      The 'higher court' of world opinion is perhaps the only hope left.'


      Photos and footage available. For more information contact Miriam
      Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email mr@...

      To read this press release online click visit
      http://survival-international.org/news.php?id=995.
      ____________________________

      Background to the ordered arrest of the government's attorney on 1
      September 2005

      1. In July 2005, Dr Alexander and a number of government officials
      entered the Central Kalahari Game Reserve to conduct an inspection.
      2. The Bushmen's lawyers were given no notice of the visit and no
      opportunity to advise their clients whether they should cooperate
      with Dr Alexander and the officials.
      3. They objected to the introduction of any evidence from Dr
      Alexander about what she had seen or done during the inspection. On
      Tuesday 30 August, their objection was upheld, so that Dr Alexander
      was not permitted to give any evidence of what she claimed to have
      seen in July.
      4. By Thursday 1 September, Dr Alexander had been in the witness box
      for seven days. She was still being asked questions by Mr Pilane.
      Mr
      Pilane asked her whether she had seen diseased animals in the
      reserve
      and Dr Alexander said that she had. The Bushmen's Counsel asked Mr
      Pilane to clarify when it was that she claimed to have seen the
      diseased animals, so as to establish whether the evidence was
      precluded by the order which the Court had made on Tuesday.
      5. When Mr Pilane declined to do so the Court itself asked Dr
      Alexander to clarify when it was that she claimed to have seen
      diseased animals. She replied, 'In July'.
      6. Mr Pilane requested a five-minute adjournment, which was granted.
      After the adjournment, Mr Pilane did not appear in court until after
      the judges had already returned and resumed their positions on the
      bench.
      7. There was then a discussion between the court and Mr Pilane in
      the
      course of which Mr Pilane sat down. When he was asked to stand up,
      he
      repeatedly declined to do so. He was offered two opportunities to
      explain why he should not be cited for contempt, and did not accept
      that he was in contempt. The court then ruled that he was in
      contempt, and that he should immediately be arrested and taken to
      prison. It directed that he should be brought back before the court
      at 9.30 on Monday morning, when the attorney general should also
      appear. After the court rose several police officers attended court
      to arrest Mr Pilane. He declined to accompany them and was driven
      from the court in a government vehicle.



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