Longest court case concludes – Bushmen receive death threats

Botswana's longest-running court case, brought by the Bushmen against the Botswana government, concluded on Tuesday. Over 10% of the 243 applicants have died in the government resettlement camps since the case was filed. Bushman activists Roy Sesana and Jumanda Gakelebone received death threats last week.

Bushmen outside court in mid-May 2006Tuesday was the final day of evidence in the Bushmen's court case. Seventeen Bushman applicants attended court last week in a show of solidarity. The court is likely to hear the lawyers' arguments in September.

Sesana and Gakelebone were threatened in the town of Lobatse, the seat of the Botswana high court. Gakelebone said, ‘A smartly dressed man got out of a car. He said he wanted to kill a Bushman tonight and that he would kill us. He went back to the car. Then three other men got out and told us the same thing.'

The Bushmen are fighting for their right to return to their land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, and to hunt and gather freely. They first filed the case in April 2002, following the evictions in February that year, but it was thrown out on a technicality. The Bushmen appealed and won the right to have the case heard, and it began in July 2004 in Botswana's high court. It has since faced long delays. It has been the longest and most expensive legal case in Botswana's history, despite being brought by the country's poorest inhabitants.

Survival's director Stephen Corry said today, ‘The urgency and importance of this case cannot be overstated. People are dying because they can't go back to their land. Survival is pleased that the evidence has finally concluded, and we urge the court to ensure that a decision is reached without delay.'

Photos and footage available. For more information call Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]