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Botswana: UN and African human rights experts hail key ruling recognising an LGBT organisation

GENEVA / BANJUL (18 November 2014) – United Nations and African independent human rights experts today hailed a key judgment by the High Court of Botswana asserting that the organisation ‘Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana’ (LEGABIBO) should be legally registered as a society by the authorities.

The Court rejected last Friday the arguments put forward by the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs of Botswana to refuse legal registration to LEGABIBO, by decreeing that ‘it is not a crime for one to be attracted to people of one’s own sex’ and that ‘advocacy for legislative reforms to decriminalize homosexuality is lawful.’

“This seminal judgment by the High Court of Botswana reaffirms that everyone is entitled to the fundamental right to peacefully assemble and associate,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, said.

“Other countries should follow and allow the registration of organisations advocating for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people,” the human rights expert stressed.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, reiterated that “both the United Nations and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights have called on States on numerous occasions to ensure that human rights defenders working to protect the rights of LGBT people can do their critical work without interference.”

“We salute this ground-breaking judgment and hope that it will lead to more recognition and protection for LGBT human rights defenders in Africa and beyond,” the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders of the African Commission, Reine Alapini-Gansou, further added.

“This welcome ruling emphasises that there can be no justification for restricting the freedom of expression on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, said. “I hope other States take note of this important judgment and do away such discriminatory restrictions.”

The UN and African human rights experts called on the authorities of Botswana to implement this judgment and urged all countries to remove discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.

The United Nations human rights experts are part of what it is known as ‘Special Procedures’, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system. ‘Special Procedures’ is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights was established by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Commission consists of 11 members elected by the AU Assembly from experts nominated by the state parties to the Charter. The Commission created subsidiary mechanisms such as special rapporteurs, committees, and working groups to achieve its objectives of promoting and protecting human rights on the continent. The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders was established by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights with the adoption of Resolution 69 at the 35th Ordinary Session held in Banjul, The Gambia from 21st May to 4th June 2004. Learn More: http://www.achpr.org/ 

OHCHR Country Page – Botswana:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/BWIndex.aspx   

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