Botswana tortures Bushmen, then prosecutes them

The Botswana authorities are prosecuting 13 Gana and Gwi Bushmen for 'hunting without a licence' after they had been tortured by wildlife officers. This persecution is the latest step in the government's drive to force the Bushmen out of their ancestral home – the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

The 13 hunters go on trial on Monday 18 February in the Botswana town of Lethlakane. They are from the Bushmen village of Molapo. In testimony collected by Survival researchers, they described how wildlife officers came into the village in August 2000 and subjected them to a 6-day ordeal of violence and torture. Some were tied to a tree which was set alight, others were tied to the front of the officers' vehicle for three days and beaten.

Despite having lived by hunting and gathering in the same area for 20,000 years, the Botswana government forces the Bushmen to apply for 'hunting licences' as though they were tourists, and restricts each hunter – who often has to provide for a large family – to a few antelope a year. The government's objective is to make the Bushmen's hunting way of life impossible, and force them out into resettlement camps. The President has described the Gana and Gwi as 'stone age creatures'.

The Bushmen now face a maximum penalty of 5 years' imprisonment.

Stephen Corry, Survival's Director said today, 'It is the accusers who are guilty in both law and international opinion. The beaten and tortured Bushmen should not be in the dock, but rather the government of Botswana, which is guilty of violating the law and the human rights of the Bushmen. The case against the Bushmen should be dropped now, and their land given back to them.'

NB The names Gana and Gwi contain sounds not conveyed by this spelling, and can be written as G//ana and G/wi. Survival omits the symbols '//' and '/' as they are not understood by most people internationally.

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Film, photos and transcripts of the Bushmen's graphic accounts of their torture are available to the press from Survival: contact Miriam Ross (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]