On Wednesday, 26 August 2015, the Botswana Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal against a 2014 decision of the High Court, affirming the government’s legal obligation to provide foreign prisoners with antiretrovirals (ARVs) at government expense.
In August 2014, two foreign prisoners and the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) succeeded in a High Court challenge against a government policy refusing to provide HIV-positive foreign prisoners with ARVs. The High Court held that the policy was unlawful and ordered the government to provide the treatment. The State parties appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal. Legal arguments were heard on 23 July 2015.
On 26 August 2015, the Court of Appeal, in a unanimous judgment by the full bench, ruled that the policy was contrary to the Prisons Act and unlawful. The Court, per Kirby JP, ordered the immediate provision of free HIV testing and treatment to all HIV positive foreign prisoners on the same terms as citizen prisoners.
“The judgment marks a decisive victory for public health in Botswana and the region. We look forward to the government taking immediate steps to roll out treatment to those prisoners falling within the treatment gap. BONELA remains committed to work with the government to ensure an effective HIV response that respects human rights,” says Phazha Molebatsi, a BONELA board member.
“The Court of Appeal has affirmed Botswana’s legal duty of care over persons in detention, no matter what their origin. The decision’s enforcement will mean access to life-saving treatment for people who are particularly vulnerable to HIV,” says Annabel Raw, Health Rights Lawyer at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which supported the case.
BONELA was represented by Advocate Gilbert Marcus SC, Advocate Isabel Goodman, and Mr Tshiamo Rantao of Rantao Kewagamang Attorneys.
For more information:
Phazha Molebatsi, BONELA board member, firstname.lastname@example.org, +26771819009
Annabel Raw, Health Rights Lawyer, Southern Africa Litigation Centre: (o) +27(0)105968538; (m) +27(0)837848496 AnnabelR@salc.org.za
Cindy Kelemi, Director, Director of BONELA: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
For background on the case: http://www.southernafricalitigationcentre.org/cases/ongoing-cases/botswana-securing-access-to-hiv-treatment-for-prisoners/
For Twitter updates: #BONELA