Thursday, February 26, 2009

Statement by Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) to recent allegation in the Press

source: Republic of Botswana (16/2/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 3 of 2009
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President "Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"

C1) 16/2/09: Statement by Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) to recent allegation in the Press.

The Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) is concerned about a number of recent media reports containing unsubstantiated allegations and insinuations about our operations. In our view there has been a tendency on the part of some to focus on fears rather than actual facts in their reporting.

To avoid undue alarm we recognise our own obligation to reassure our fellow citizens that, like all other branches of Government, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security exists as a public institution working for the public good.

We are moreover an institution whose operations are legally defined and regulated be an Act of Parliament, as well as all other laws and regulations that govern the public service.

For example, with respect to the conduct that is expected of our officers and support staff, sub-section 16 (1) of the Intelligence and Security Act, explicitly states that:

"An officer or support staff shall not - (a) engage in the activities of any political party or act as an agent of such party; or (b) in the performance of his or her functions or the exercise of his or her powers under this act - (i) subject any person to torture or to any other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; or (ii) enter or search any private premises except with a warrant issued pursuant to section 22."

Sub-section 16 (2) goes on affirm that: "An officer or support staff who contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1) shall be guilty of an offence."

It is in the context of this unambiguous legal mandate, as well as our moral and public service obligations to the whole community we have been established to protect, that we take seriously any accusation that our personnel have engaged in abusive behaviour or could be working for partisan rather than public interests.

In this respect we take this opportunity to reaffirm our view that the allegation reported in one newspaper that our personnel had engaged in abusive interrogation is a fabrication.

We further take this opportunity to once more deny that any of our officers have had anything to do with the recently alleged abduction of the UB SRC President.

As an organisation established to uphold the law, we are further mindful of the fact that the powers of entry, search, and seizure, as well as arrest by DIS personnel are clearly specified in sections 21 and 22 of the Act.

Like other law enforcement agencies, under section 22 the Director General of DIS is required to apply for a warrant from a senior magistrate or a judge of the High Court to enable the Directorate to investigate national security threats. Before a warrant can be given for any entry, search or seizure the magistrate or judge to whom the application has been made must be satisfied that there is reasonable ground to suspect the commission of an actual offence.

In light of published insinuations to the contrary, we can further confirm that DIS, like any Government organ, is also held strictly accountable for its expenditures. In this respect we are subject to oversight by both the Executive and Legislative braches, as well as the Auditor General.

Such oversight is, moreover, also explicitly provided for in the Intelligence and Security Service Act.

In addition to the constitutionally mandated responsibilities of Parliament, which of course must approve the DIS budget, and the Auditor General, the Act provides for an Intelligence and Security Council whose functions include examining the expenditure and administration of Directorate, as well as overseeing its legal framework.

The Intelligence and Security Act further provides for the establishment and functioning of a dedicated Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security, as well as the special Tribunal to receive and investigate any complaints be members of the public.

The role of the Parliament Committee, as defined in the Act, is to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Directorate.

The Committee is further tasked with producing an Annual report of the Parliamentary Committee, to be presented to both H.E. the President and before the National Assembly.

In light of another recent media report, we would here wish to emphasise that the Minister can only exclude a matter from publication in the public report, as laid before the National Assembly, if it appears to the Minister, after consultations with the Parliamentary Committee, that publication of the matter would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the Directorate.

In such exceptional circumstance the Minister is, moreover, required to issue a statement confirming that such exclusion had been made.

In addition to the above the DIS like any public institution exists under the general laws of the Republic. In this respect the Intelligence and Security Act provides for additional safeguards to other applicable legislation.

This point is further underscored in Section 11 of the Act, which explicitly states that: "The officers and support staff may exercise such powers and shall perform such functions as are conferred upon them by or under this Act or any other written law and shall, in the performance of their functions, obey all lawful directions which they may receive from any person having the authority to give such directions."

In this context DIS personnel are, for example, like all other public officers, subject to such legislation as the Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Act and the Finance and Audit Act, whose section 6 governs the control of monies.

We trust that this statement will go someway to reassuring our stakeholders, the public that the DIS exists to serve and protect their interests. In this respect members of the public should feel free to contact us with any information or concerns they may have that will assist us in our performance.

Finally, members of the public are reminded that they can lodge any complaints about our service with the Registrar of the High Court who is obliged, within seven days, to forward the same to the Chairman of the Tribunal, with a copy to the Minister responsible.

No comments: