Government restricts UN access

May 14, 2007

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The Botswana government has announced that access to the country for the top UN human rights spokesman for Indigenous peoples will be restricted.

In an astonishing move, the government has invoked a special clause of the country’s constitution to slam visa restrictions on the UN’s special rapporteur on Indigenous peoples, Mexican Rodolfo Stavenhagen.

The announcement comes as over one thousand Indigenous representatives converge on the United Nations today for the start of the sixth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

The same restrictions were imposed in March on 17 individuals including four Survival staff, BBC world affairs editor John Simpson and other journalists and human rights activists, most of whom had taken an interest in the eviction of the Kalahari Bushmen.

While officials insist the move is intended to allow the government to offer the individuals assistance when they visit Botswana, it has been widely interpreted by the local and international media as a virtual ban.

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘The Botswana government clearly thinks it has something to hide from the UN special rapporteur. And indeed it does – despite the Botswana High Court’s decisive ruling in the Bushmen’s favour, the government is still trying to stop them returning to their land.’

For further information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]