- "Everyone has the right to expeditious trial under Article 14 of the Covenant" - 2000 cases backlog reported

The United Nations Expert Group on Arbitrary Detention has slammed the tendency of lawyers, judges, and magistrates to unduly delay trials, warning this could lead to arbitrary detention and prejudice the right to appeal.

The Group conducted an official visit to Botswana from 4 to 15 July 2022 at the invitation of the government of Botswana.

Among its findings on the state of the country’s justice system, it noted the “undue delays of trials”, which it said are usually rooted in the insufficient number of court reporters producing proceeding records.

It said the delays are also attributable to the frequent adjournment and rescheduling of trials due to “failure of the legal defense or even the magistrates to appear.”

According to the Group’s preliminary report that has been made public, it can take up to two years to produce records, thereby creating significant delays, especially for the appellate proceedings.

The group acknowledged that authorities recognise this serious problem, citing some “2000 cases backlog reported,” and noted that the Court Registrar is taking steps to train additional court reporters.

However, the Group warned that delays may result in arbitrary detention and prejudice the right to appeal.

The Expert Group received numerous testimonies about the “failure of lawyers to appear at court hearings without a legitimate reason,” thereby causing the frequent adjournment of cases, especially in cases when the lawyer is a state-appointed attorney.

It said that similar instances are reported in relation to judges.

The Group considers that such undue delays are a significant factor contributing to excessive pre-trial detention and recalls that “everyone has the right to expeditious trial” under Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.