Botswana’s anti-chemical weapons Bill has reached parliament and the penalties are stiff including life imprisonment.
The piece of legislation known as the Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Bill (Bill No.12 of 2014) is for the national implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention focusing on among others, preventing the creation, manufacture, and transit of chemical warfare materials and their precursors.
Defence, justice and security minister Ndelu Seretse on Wednesday tabled the Bill in parliament, which imposes a maximum penalty of P25 million on individuals for a single contravention and life imprisonment. Section 12 (1) of the Bill prohibits any person (unless authorised) from producing, using, acquiring, possessing, transferring and importing or exporting a Schedule 1 chemical or its precursor. According to the Bill, Schedule 1 lists toxic chemicals that include sulfur mustards and lewisite.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes lewisite as an extremely toxic, arsenic-containing blister agent (vesicant) that affects the lungs and causes whole-body (systemic) effects.
It was developed as a potential chemical warfare agent (military designation, ), but has not been used on the battlefield. Exposure to large amounts can be fatal. Contravention of Section 12 of the Chemical Weapons Act draws a steep penalty of P25 million or life imprisonment, or both.
Other stiff penalties are found at Section 13 (3) where anyone contravening the section commits an offence and is liable to a fine of P3 million or to imprisonment for a term of 20 years, or to both.
The Act under Section 14 prohibits any person (except one authorised by the Act) from receiving, transferring, importing or exporting Schedule 3 chemicals without first notifying the Authority.
A person who contravenes this section is liable to a fine of P1.5 million or to imprisonment for a term of 10 years, or to both. The Act provides for the establishment of a Chemical Weapons Management Authority led by a director.
Also a Board to be chaired by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security will be formed. Other members of the Board will include nominees from the ministry of agriculture, ministry of health, Attorney General Chambers, Botswana Police Service and the Botswana Defence Force.
The director will be empowered to appoint inspectors who will in turn have powers at any reasonable time to enter any place with reasonable force if necessary and as may be permitted by a warrant and inspect the place. The inspectors will also at any given time, “request any person in, at or on the place to give to the inspector access to any area, container or thing in, at or on the place.” Under this law an inspector shall not be liable to be sued in any civil court in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by such inspector, if the thing is done or omitted to be done “bona fide in the course of the operations of the Authority, render that inspector personally liable to an action, claim, demand.”