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NEWS: Right to water court decision expected, Jan. 27

The Southern Times reports that, “Botswana’s Court of Appeal is expected to deliver judgement on 27 January in a case in which the San of Central Kalahari Game Reserve have appealed a decision by the Lobatse High Court that they are not entitled to sink a borehole (for water) in their ancestral land.” Late last week, Survival International reported that, “A panel of five judges…are expected to deliver their verdict on 27th or 31st January.”

The Botswana Gazette reported on January 15 that, “On January 17th, Botswana’s Court of Appeal will begin a hearing to decide  whether Kalahari Bushmen living on their ancestral lands have the right to water. The Bushmen, who returned to their lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve after a previous court victory, are appealing against a 2010 High Court ruling that denied their right to access a well in the reserve they had used for decades. The 2010 ruling, which came a week before the UN formally recognized water as a fundamental human right, has been slammed by Africa’s key human rights body for denying the Bushmen’s ‘right to life’. Without the well, the Bushmen are forced to make arduous journeys by foot or donkey to fetch water from outside the reserve.”

Survival International also states, “If the Bushmen are unsuccessful in the appeal, the ruling will fly in the face of two UN Declarations which recognize water as a fundamental human right. …Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, ‘The world is watching and waiting to see if the Bushmen will finally see justice. All the Bushmen ask is for a guarantee that the government will not stop them from getting water; how could any just court deny that?’”

They have also highlighted that, “Prof. James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur for indigenous peoples, (has written) that the ‘denial of services to those currently living in the reserve does not appear to be in keeping with the spirit and underlying logic of the [2006 High Court] decision, nor with the relevant international human rights standards.’”

CNN has reported that, “At an appeals court hearing (last) week, the lawyer for the Bushmen told the five appellate judges that the Bushmen had a lawful and constitutional right to live in the game reserve. In addition, the lawyer, barrister Gordon Bennett, said the nation’s Water Act allows any legal occupant of land to dig a borehole for domestic use.”

Additionally, CNN has also reported that, “A 2005 cable by the U.S. ambassador to Botswana criticized how the southern African nation’s government handled the removal of Bushmen people from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, according to the document obtained by WikiLeaks and published Thursday by London’s Guardian newspaper.”

Web-links on this include http://www.southerntimesafrica.com/article.php?title=Judgment%20date%20set%20in%20San%20case&id=5415, http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/01/20/botswana.bushmen/, http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/5600 and http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=5935.