Court name
Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe
Case number
SC 11 of 2012
Constitutional Application 36 of 2009

Mukoko v AG (SC 11 of 2012, Constitutional Application 36 of 2009) [2012] ZWCC 11 (20 March 2012);

Law report citations
Media neutral citation
[2012] ZWCC 11

Judgment No. SC 11/12       

Const. Application No. 36/09

 

JESTINA    MUKOKO   v    THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL

 

SUPREME COURT OF ZIMBABWE

CHIDYAUSIKU CJ, MALABA DCJ, SANDURA JA,

ZIYAMBI JA & GARWE JA

HARARE, JUNE 25, 2009 & MARCH  20, 2012

 

J Gauntlett SC, with him Mrs B Mtetwa, for the applicant

 

Mrs F Maxwell, for the respondent

 

 

MALABA DCJ:

INTRODUCTION

This  case  is about  a permanent  stay of a criminal  prosecution  because  of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment to which the applicant was subjected by State security  agents  prior  to  being  brought  to  Court  on  a  criminal  charge.  Jestina  Mukoko (hereinafter  referred  to as (“the  applicant”)  appeared  before  a magistrate  at Rotten  Row Magistrates  Court in Harare on 14 January 2009 in the case of Manuel Chinanzvavana  & Eight Ors No. 8801-5/08.   She was charged with the offence of contravening s 24(a) of the Criminal  Law (Codification  and Reform) Act [Cap. 9:23] (hereinafter  referred to as “the Act”).   It was alleged that in the months of June and July 2008, the applicant and the co- accused persons “recruited or attempted to recruit or assisted in the recruitment of Ricardo Hwasheni to undergo military training in Botswana in order to commit any act of insurgency, banditry, sabotage or terrorism in Zimbabwe”.

 

The applicant alleged in the Magistrates  Court, that she had been abducted from home and subjected to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment by State security agents.  She  requested  the  magistrate   to  refer  the  question  of  contravention   of  her fundamental rights to the Supreme Court (“the Court”).

Two grounds were used to justify the request. The first was that the institution of the criminal prosecution was rendered invalid by the pre-charge ill-treatment to which the applicant was subjected.   It was argued that the manner in which she was apprehended by State security agents and treated in detention prior to being brought to court on the charge constituted a violation of the fundamental  rights not to be arbitrarily deprived of personal liberty guaranteed under s 13(1) and not to be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment protected by s 15(1) of the Constitution.   The argument was that the uncontested behaviour  by  State  security  agents  in  kidnapping  the  applicant  from  her  residence  and subjecting her to torture, inhuman and degrading treatment whilst she was in their custody rendered the institution of the criminal prosecution an abuse of legal process.   It was also argued that the conduct of the State security agents offended the sense of what the judiciary expects as decent behaviour from law enforcement agents in the treatment of persons in their custody.  The contention was that the Court was obliged to refuse to countenance the bringing of the criminal prosecution in the circumstances.

The second ground was that the decisions made by the public prosecutor to charge the applicant with the criminal offence and to bring the prosecution proceedings were based  solely  on information  or evidence  of the crime  obtained  from her by infliction  of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment.   It was argued that the institution of the criminal prosecution was rendered invalid by the use of inadmissible information or evidence.   The assumption was that s 15(1) of the Constitution contains a rule that prohibits the admission or use, in legal proceedings  by public officials  responsible  for the initiation and conduct of criminal prosecution and judicial officers, of information or evidence of the crime obtained from an accused person or any third party by infliction of torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment.

 

The  contention  was  that  reliance  on information  or evidence  of the crime obtained from the applicant or a third party by torture, inhuman and degrading treatment was a breach of the exclusionary rule and unlawful. It also engaged the responsibility of the State in the violation  of s 13(1) of the Constitution.    The effect of the argument  was that the decision  to  charge  the  applicant  with  the  criminal  offence  and  the  institution  of  the prosecution  of  it was  not  based  on a reasonable  suspicion  of her having  committed  the criminal offence.  The criminal prosecution was therefore not authorised by s 13(2)(e) of the Constitution.

The  magistrate  was  of  the  view  that  the  raising  of the question  as to the contravention  of  the  applicant’s  fundamental  rights  was  not  frivolous  or  vexatious. He referred the question to the Court for determination.   The relief sought by the applicant was an order of permanent stay of the criminal prosecution.

 

THE ORDER OF THE COURT

 

On 28 September 2009, after reading documents filed of record and hearing argument by counsel for the applicant and for the respondent, the Court made the following order:

“The Court unanimously concludes that the State through its agents violated the applicant’s constitutional rights protected under ss 13(1), 15(1) and 18(1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe to the extent entitling the applicant to a permanent stay of criminal prosecution associated with the above violations.

Accordingly it is ordered that the criminal prosecution against the applicant arising from the facts set out in proceedings in the Magistrates Court Harare in the case of the State v Manuel Chinanzvavana & Eight ors case number 8801-5/08 is stayed permanently.

The reasons for this order will be furnished in due course.  The question of the costs of the application will be dealt with in the judgment.”

THE FACTS

The   reasons   for  the  order  are  now  given. The  facts   on  which  the determination of the question as to the contravention of the fundamental rights referred to in the  order  was  based,  were  conveyed  by  oral  testimony  given  by  the  applicant  in  the Magistrates Court.  They were also conveyed through the affidavit deposed to by her on 12 January 2009 as well as by the arguments addressed to the Court by counsel on behalf of the applicant.  The truthfulness of the evidence conveyed by the means and methods referred to was not contested by the respondent.

 

The evidence is to the following effect.   On 3 December 2008 at 5a.m., the applicant was in bed at the family home in Norton.  In the house were her son, nephew and an employee.  The son came to the bedroom  and said there  were people  at the gate to the premises who wanted to talk to her.  She woke up in a night dress only.  The son came back saying he understood that the people were members of the police.  Wearing a night dress only she walked to the kitchen where she met seven men and one woman in plain clothes.  They said they were members of the police but did not produce identity cards to show that they were police officers.  Two of the men took positions on each side of the applicant.  They each held her by the hand and led her to a Mazda Familia motor vehicle that was parked at the gate.  In the car was another man.

The applicant asked her captors for permission to go back into the house and dress properly.   She was instead pushed into the rear seat of the car.  She was ordered to lie on the back seat between two men with her face on the lap of one of them.   The man on whose lap she was forced to put her face had a gun across his thighs.  Across the floor of the car in front of the rear seat there was another firearm.   A jersey was used to blindfold her. She could hardly breathe as the jersey was pressing against her nose.  When she complained of suffocation the tightness of the jersey was loosened a little bit.  She said she was terrified by what was happening to her.

The car was driven for about 40 minutes before it was stopped at a secret place.  During the journey the car radio had been switched on to produce a very loud sound. She was led out of the car into a room where she was told to sit on a chair.  A woman gave her a dress which she said she reluctantly put on in place of the night dress.

After 30 minutes of their arrival at the secret place, the applicant was taken to another room and told to sit on the floor with legs stretched forward.  When the blindfold was removed, six men and one woman started interrogating her.  She was told to agree to become a State witness in the case under investigation or be killed.  She was asked to give the name of an ex-police officer who visited her work place seeking financial assistance to go outside the country.   The questions sought to solicit from her information to the effect that she had used her organisation’s funds to enable the ex-police officer to go outside the country and undergo military training in insurgency and terrorism.

 

The applicant said when she told the interrogators that she could not remember the name of the ex-police officer who had visited her office in 2008, one of the men took a piece of a hosepipe about one metre long.  Another man took a coiled piece of iron.  The two men took turns to beat her with these objects several times on the soles of her feet using severe force.  She said her assailants were quite zealous in what they were doing.  She yelled in pain.  When the first stretch of beatings ended, a woman brought her pants to wear.  The interrogation and beatings stopped in the afternoon of the first day at the secret place.

She was blindfolded and taken to a room in which she was kept in solitary confinement.  The blindfold was removed each time she was in solitary confinement.  In the evening of the first day of her arrival at the secret place she was blindfolded and taken to a room.  She was made to sit on a chair.  When the blindfold was removed she saw the same people who had interrogated her earlier that day.   When the interrogation commenced she was ordered to lift both legs and place the feet on the edge of a table.  She did as ordered. Two men struck the soles of her feet repeatedly with severe force using the same objects used to beat her in the morning.   She said her feet felt very sore.   She could hardly walk the following day.

On 4 December 2008, the applicant was interrogated in the morning and afternoon without being beaten.  In the evening she was told that as she was not co-operative, a decision had been made that she be surrendered to a merciless group of men and women.  A blindfold was put around her head.  She said she was gripped by fear.  She thought she was going to be killed as she was pushed into a car and told to lie face down on the rear seat.

The motor vehicle was driven for a considerable time before being stopped at a secluded place.  There was a sound of shuffling movement of people outside the car.  She thought her captors were preparing to execute her.  The car suddenly reversed and then drove on.   The captors asked about her workplace.   They alleged that she worked for Voice of America Studio.   She said she told them she worked for Voice of the People.   The car got back to the secret place at 1.00a.m.

In  the  morning  of  5  December   2008,  the  applicant   was  taken  to  an interrogation room.   When the blindfold was removed she saw Rodrick Takawira who was her workmate in the same room.  One of the interrogators said to her:

“You have been lying all along, Rodrick has told us everything”.

Rodrick was taken out of the room.   One of the men brought gravel and put it on the floor to form mounds.  She was told to pull up her dress above knee-level and kneel on the gravel.  The interrogation began and continued with her in that position.  She said she was injured on the knees and felt severe pain.  Each time she tried to move the knees to relieve the pain the interrogators ordered her to move back into position.  She remained in that position for one hour.

The applicant said the interrogators  wanted her to say that she had assisted Ricardo Hwasheni to go to Botswana for military training so as to carry out insurgent and terrorist activities in the country.   She said she told the interrogators  that she had a brief interaction  with  Ricardo  when  he  visited  their  offices  asking  for  assistance  to leave  the country.  She said she told the interrogators that she referred Ricardo to Fidelis Mudimu who worked in the counselling services unit of the organisation.

On the fourth day she was blindfolded and taken to a room where she was made to sit on a chair.  When the blindfold was removed she saw nine men and one woman sitting at a conference table.   One of the men had interrogated her before.   They said they wanted to know more about Zimbabwe Peace Project and documents it had in its possession on human rights violations in the country.   They asked about her interaction with Ricardo Hwasheni.  She said she told the interrogators that she had told Ricardo that her organisation did not give money to people who wanted to go out of the country.  They asked her why she did not ask him which country he wanted to go to.  When she said that was not her business, the interrogation became very aggressive.

The applicant said the men became visibly angry.  One of them threatened to make her suffer.  He said they were going to make her defecate.  Shaking with fear and not sure whether she would come out of the room unhurt, she was given a paper and told to write a statement.  The interrogators told her to write about the trip she had made to Botswana.  She did as told.  The next day she was told that there were some things the interrogators wanted deleted from the statement.   She removed from the statement what the interrogators did not want and added what they said was to be added to the statement.

She said she wrote the statement in the manner her interrogators wanted before signing it.  According to her, it was not true that she had referred Ricardo Hwasheni to Fidelis Mudimu  of  the  counselling  unit.  She  said  she  did  not  make  the  statement  freely  and voluntarily.   The statement contained what she was told to write by her captors because she believed that would make them release her.

 

On 14 December 2008 the applicant was taken to a conference room where there was a cameraman.   The men and women who had interrogated her were present.  The cameraman was introduced to her.   She was told that she was to be video recorded whilst making a statement about how she met Ricardo Hwasheni.  It was said a decision was to be made on the basis of the statement whether to prosecute her or turn her into a State witness. After saying what the interrogators wanted her to say, she was blindfolded and taken to the room where she was kept in solitary confinement.   She was held in solitary confinement incommunicado until 22 December 2008.

On 22 December 2008 the applicant was blindfolded and taken by car in the company of Rodrick Takawira to a place where they were turned over to a police officer called Magwenzi.  The police officer told them not to remove the blindfolds before those who brought them left.  She said when the blindfold was removed she recognised the place where they were left by their captors as Braeside Police Station.  She was detained there.  The police later obtained from a magistrate a warrant authorising a search to be carried out at her house in Norton.  She was taken to the house.  For the first time she saw members of  her family. Whilst under the custody  of her captors  she had not been allowed  to communicate  with members of her family or her lawyer.

 

The search of the house did not yield anything relevant to the allegation that she recruited  Ricardo Hwasheni  to undergo military training for purposes of carrying out insurgency and terrorism in the country.   On 23 December 2008 she was charged with the offence of contravening s 24(a) of the Act.

The facts on which the charge was based were extracted from the applicant by interrogation  at  different  times  during  the  period  of  detention  extending  from  3  to  14 December 2008.   On the basis of the information on which the charge was brought against the applicant, the public prosecutor instituted the criminal proceedings.   The applicant was then brought before the magistrate for remand pending trial.  The public prosecutor did not adduce evidence challenging what the applicant said happened to her from the time she was kidnapped to the time she appeared before the magistrate.

Meaning of s 15(1) of the Constitution

The first point taken on behalf of the applicant was that the treatment to which she was subjected by State security agents prior to the charge being laid on her constituted a contravention of s 15(1) of the Constitution.  Section 15(1) of the Constitution provides that:

“(1) No person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other such treatment.”

In this case the only relevant concepts are “torture”; “inhuman treatment” and “degrading treatment”.  They make up the three key elements of the protection of a person’s dignity and physical integrity from the prohibited treatment at the hands of public officials.

Section  15(1)  of  the  Constitution  enshrines  one  of  the  most  fundamental values in a democratic society.  Chahal v United Kingdom [1996] 23 EHRR 413 para 79.  It is an absolute prohibition.   It is because of the importance of the values it protects that the rules by which the prohibition imposes the obligations on the State are peremptory in effect. The most conspicuous  consequence  of this quality is that the principle at issue cannot be derogated  from  by  the  State  even  in  a  State  of  public  emergency. (see  s  25  of  the Constitution).

The provision is subject only to the exercise by Parliament,  when properly constituted,  of the power under  s 52 of the Constitution  to amend, add to or repeal any provision of the Constitution upon strict compliance with the procedure prescribed for the purpose.  Mike Campbell (Pvt) Ltd v Ministry of Lands 2008(1) ZLR 17(S).

It was in the exercise of the power conferred on it by s 52 of the Constitution, that Parliament, by means of Act No. 30 of 1990 (Amendment No. 11) and Act No. 9 of 1993 (Amendment No. 13) provided that six specific instances of treatment of individuals by the State, shall not be held to be in contravention  of s 15(1) of the Constitution.   These are: treatment to prevent the escape from custody of a person who has been lawfully detained (s

15(2)); moderate corporal punishment inflicted upon a person under the age of eighteen years by his parent or guardian or by someone in loco parentis (s 15(3)(a));  moderate corporal punishment inflicted on a male person under the age of eighteen years in execution of the judgment or order of a court (s 15(3)(b)); execution of a sentence of death in the manner prescribed in s 315(2) of the Criminal Procedure & Evidence Act [Cap. 9:07](s 15(4)); delay in the execution of a sentence of death (s 15(5)) and delay in the execution of any sentence imposed by a competent court (s 15(6)).

The   qualities   of  absoluteness   in  the  sense   of  being  an  unconditional prohibition and non-derogability articulate the notion that the prohibition is one of the most fundamental  standards of a democratic society.   They are also designed to ensure that the prohibition produces a deterrent effect in that it signals in advance to all public officials and private individuals that it is an absolute value from which nobody must derogate.   The fact that torture, inhuman and degrading treatment is prohibited by a peremptory provision serves to render null and void any act authorising such conduct.

 

The  prohibition  protects  the dignity  and physical  integrity  of every person regardless of his or her conduct.  No exceptional circumstance such as the seriousness of the crime the person is suspected of having committed, or the danger he or she is believed to pose to national security can justify infliction of torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment.  There cannot be a value in our society over which there is so clear a consensus as the prohibition of torture inhuman and degrading treatment of a person in the custody of a public official.  That such  a  treatment  should  never  form  part  of  the  techniques  of  investigation  of  crimes employed by law enforcement agents, is a restatement of the principle that the law which it is their duty to enforce, requires that only fair and humane treatment ought to be applied to a person under criminal investigation.

 

There is a distinction intended to be made under s 15(1) of the Constitution between torture on the one hand and inhuman or degrading treatment  on the other.   The distinction between the notion of torture and the other two concepts lies principally in the intensity of physical or mental pain and suffering inflicted, in respect of torture, on the victim intentionally  and for a specific purpose.   Torture is an aggravated  and deliberate form of inhuman  or  degrading  treatment.   What  constitutes  torture,  or  inhuman  or  degrading treatment depends on the circumstances of each case.

The definition of torture often adopted by courts as a minimum standard by which a determination  of the question whether torture has been committed or not, is that provided under Article 1(1) of the United Nations Convention  Against Torture and Other Cruel or Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  1987 (hereinafter referred to as “the UN Convention on Torture”).   Article 1(1) of the UN Convention on Torture provides that:

“...  torture  means  any act  by which  severe  pain  or suffering  whether  physical  or mental is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person  has  committed  or  is  suspected  of  having  committed,  or  intimidating  or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.  It does  not indicate  pain or suffering  arising only from,  inherent  in or incidental  to lawful sanction.”

 

The  definition  of  torture  provided  in  Article  (1)(1)  is consistent  with  the interpretation  by  the  Court  in  its  case  law  of  the  concept  as  used  in  s  15(1)  of  the Constitution. It is important  to note  that in terms  of the definition,  the torture  must be inflicted for the purpose of obtaining information or a confession. This is the mischief at which the UN Convention on Torture is aimed.

 

Inhuman treatment is treatment which when applied or inflicted on a person intentionally or with premeditation causes, if not actual bodily injury, at least intense physical or mental suffering to the person subjected thereto and also leads to acute psychiatric disturbance during interrogation:  Ireland v United Kingdom [1978] 2 EHRR 167 para 167.

Degrading  treatment  is treatment  which  when  applied  to or inflicted  on a person humiliates or debases him or her showing a lack of respect for or diminishing his or her human dignity or arouses feelings of fear, anguish or inferiority capable of breaking the person’s moral and physical resistance.   The relevant notions in the definition of degrading treatment are those of humiliation and debasement.  The suffering and humiliation involved must go beyond the inevitable element of suffering or humiliation connected with a given form of legitimate or fair treatment: Woods v Commissioner of Prisons & Anor 2003(2) ZLR 421(S) at 432C-B.

It follows from the definition of the relevant concepts that not every treatment which causes some discomfort to the person in detention violates s 15(1) of the Constitution. Otherwise no one could be arrested, detained and interrogated in the investigation of crime. The treatment must reach the minimum level of severity before it constitutes a breach of the absolute prohibition under the section.   The assessment of the minimum level of severity is relative.   The question whether or not the requisite threshold of breach of the fundamental right has been reached in a particular case is determined by the consideration of such factors as the nature and context of the treatment; manner and method of its execution, as well as the duration of the treatment, its physical and mental effects and in some cases the age, sex and state of health of the victim:   Ireland v United Kingdom supra para 162, S v Ncube & Ors 1987(2) ZLR 246(S) at 271A-G, Soering v United Kingdom [1989] 11 EHRR 439 para 100.

Woods v Commissioner of Prisons & Anor supra at 431G.

APPLICATION OF SECTION 15(1)

Applying the principles of the law on what constitutes a contravention  of s 15(1) of the Constitution  to the facts, the Court finds a violation by the State, through its agents, of the applicant’s fundamental right not to be subjected to torture, or to inhuman or degrading treatment.  The reasons for the decision are these.

The repeated beatings on the soles of the applicant’s feet with a piece of a hosepipe and a metal object using severe force on each of the two occasions she was under interrogation, constitute torture.  Repeated beating of the soles of feet with a blunt instrument is a serious form of torture called “falanga”.  Amris K, “Long Term Consequences of Falanga Torture”.  Torture Vol. 19 Number 1 IRCT 2009.

Forcing the applicant  to kneel for a long time on mounds of gravel whilst being interrogated,  falls within  the meaning  of torture.   The treatment  to which she was subjected was premeditated.   The severe pain and suffering she was forced to endure was intentionally  inflicted. It  was  in aid  of  the  interrogation  the  purpose  of which  was  the extraction from her of information on the assistance her organisation was suspected of having given to Ricardo Hwasheni to enable him to undergo military training outside the country.

The   prolonged   periods   of  solitary  confinement   incommunicado   on  the occasions she was not being interrogated constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment.   S v Masitere  1990(2)  ZLR  289(S)  at  290F.  It  is  important  to  note,  however,  that  solitary confinement  is not  to be  deemed  to be  contrary  to the prohibition  under  s 15(1)  of the Constitution.  It must be in conjunction with other conditions, for example, prolongation and imposition on a person who has not yet been convicted of an offence.   The severity of the specific  measure,  its duration,  the objectives  pursued  by it, the cumulative  effect  of any further conditions imposed as well as the effects on the individual’s physical and mental well- being, are all factors which have to be taken into account in the assessment of the question whether  a  specific  instance  of  solitary  confinement  is  in  violation  of  s  15(1)  of  the Constitution.

It was inhuman treatment to keep the applicant blindfolded each time she was out  of solitary  confinement  and not being interrogated.            The treatment  was intentionally applied and caused the applicant mental suffering.   She was also subjected to inhuman and degrading  treatment  when  she  was  blindfolded  and  driven  at  night  to  an  undisclosed destination under threat of unspecified action.  The treatment was intended to induce in her fear and anguish.  She said she feared for her life when the motor vehicle was stopped in the middle of the night at the place she could not see.   She heard the sound of people shuffling about as if preparing to execute her.  The feelings of fear and anguish generated in her by the treatment had the intended effect of debasing her.

The purpose of the prohibition of acts violative of s 15(1) of the Constitution is to protect human dignity and physical integrity. Any recourse to physical force against a person in the custody of a public official which is not rendered strictly necessary by his or her conduct diminishes his or her dignity and implicates a violation of the prohibition.

 

FIRST GROUND

Effect of Pre-charge Abduction and Violation of Section 15(1) on Criminal Prosecution

The grounds on which the relief sought were premised on the court making a finding that the applicant was kidnapped from home and subjected to ill-treatment in the form of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment by State security agents prior to being charged with the criminal offence by the public prosecutor.

The general effect of the contention advanced on the first ground was that the Court should not countenance a prosecution of an accused person for a criminal offence in circumstances  in which he or she was kidnapped  and subjected to torture, or inhuman or degrading  treatment  by public  officials  exercising  executive  authority  prior to the charge being  brought  against  him  or  her. The  argument  was  that  the  institution  of  criminal proceedings in the circumstances would be an abuse of court process.

The question for determination is whether ill-treatment in breach of s 15(1) of the Constitution prior to the charge being brought against the victim taints the subsequent decisions to lay the charge and institute criminal prosecution against him or her regardless of the question whether the requirements of s 13(2)(e) of the Constitution have been complied with or not.

The decision of the Court on this point is that ill-treatment per se has no effect on the validity of the decisions to charge the victim with a criminal offence and institute prosecution proceedings against him or her.  It is the use of the fruits of ill-treatment which may affect the validity of the decisions depending on compliance or non-compliance by the public prosecutor with the requirements of permissible deprivation of personal liberty under s 13(2)(e) of the Constitution.  The reasons for the decision are these.

The requirements which a public prosecutor has to bear in mind and comply with  to make  a valid decision  to charge  an accused  person  with a criminal  offence  and institute a criminal prosecution on the charge are prescribed by s 13(1) of the Constitution. The section recognises that every person has a fundamental right to personal liberty.  It then makes provision for the protection of the right against interference by the State by declaring that no person shall be deprived of personal liberty.  Recognising the principle that the right to personal  liberty is not an absolute  right, the section goes on to specify cases listed as exceptions  to the prohibition  in which deprivation  of personal liberty is permissible  upon strict compliance with the prescribed requirements.

The requirements of permissible deprivation of personal liberty in the case of a person suspected of crime are in s 13(2) (e) of the Constitution.  They constitute the standard by which the validity of the decision by the public prosecutor to charge the accused person with the criminal offence and institute criminal proceedings is to be measured.  The effect of prohibition of arbitrary deprivation of personal liberty is the promotion of lawful arrest or detention  and  prosecution  of  persons  suspected  of  having  committed  crimes.  It  is  the deprivation of personal liberty in connection with the criminal justice process that is relevant to the determination of the issues raised.

Once  a measure  such  as a criminal  prosecution  is based  on a decision  to charge the accused person with the criminal offence which complies with the requirements of permissible deprivation of personal liberty it is a lawful measure.  It cannot be a subject of an order of permanent stay on the ground that the accused person was kidnapped and subjected to torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment before the charge was brought against him or her.  The ill-treatment to which the accused person would have been subjected would have taken place when he or she was in a state of lawful deprivation of personal liberty.   It is usually  inflicted  after  the  person  has  been  deprived  of  personal  liberty  by  arrest  and detention.

Section 13(1) of the Constitution provides that:

“(1) No person shall be deprived of his personal liberty save as may be authorized by law in any of the cases specified in subsection (2).

(2)   The cases referred to in subsection (1) are where a person is deprived of his personal liberty as may be authorized by law –

(a)        ... (b)   ... (c)     ... (d)        ...

(e)        upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed or being about to commit, a criminal offence.”

 

Section 13(4)(b) provides that:

“(4) Any person who is arrested or detained – (a)     ...

(b)        Upon reasonable suspicion of having committed or being about to commit a criminal offence;

and who is not released shall be brought without undue delay before a court; and if any person arrested or detained  upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed or being about to commit a criminal offence is not tried  within a reasonable time, then, without prejudice to any further proceedings that may be brought against him, he shall be released either unconditionally  or upon reasonable   conditions,   including   in   particular   such   conditions   as   are reasonably necessary to ensure that he appears at a later date for trial or for proceedings preliminary to the trial.”

Failure to comply with the requirements  for a valid decision to charge the accused   person   with  a  criminal   offence   and  the  institution   of  criminal   prosecution proceedings against him or her implicates a violation of the principle of legality or rule of law enshrined  by  s  18(1)  of  the  Constitution.                                                  

The  principle  of  legality  requires  that  every decision or act of a public official which affects the rights or interests of an individual must be  in  accordance  with  an  existing  law  otherwise  it  violates  the  rights  of  the  individual concerned.   The requirements for permissible deprivation of personal liberty are part of the protection of that right.  Compliance with the requirements is consistent with the principle of the rule of law.  In that way the public prosecutor and the Court are prevented from acting arbitrarily.

Section 18(1) provides that:

“(1)  Subject  to the provisions  of  this  Constitution  every  person  is entitled  to the protection of the law.

“(1(a)) Every public officer has a duty towards every person in Zimbabwe to exercise his or her functions as a public officer in accordance with the law and to observe and uphold the rule of law.”

The provisions of ss 13(1) and 15(1) of the Constitution protect two separate but related fundamental human rights.   One right is not constitutive of the other.   They are autonomous  and under  protective  requirements  peculiar  to their  nature  and ambit.    That means that the rights may be violated independently of each other.  The infliction of torture or inhuman  or degrading treatment on an accused person affects his dignity and physical integrity.  It does not in itself affect his or her criminal liability.  The other right protects the individual from arbitrary arrest, detention and prosecution by agents of the State.  The same person may be a victim of ill-treatment by law enforcement agents whilst at the same time he or  she  is  a  villain  having  committed  a  criminal  offence  against  another  person.                                                                                                               

The applicability  of  a  particular  constitutional  provision  should  turn  on  the  reasons  it  was included in the Constitution and the evils it was designed to eliminate.

The existence of reasonable suspicion of the accused person having committed the criminal offence with which he or she is charged and prosecuted is critical to the determination of the validity of the decisions to charge him or her with the criminal offence and  institute  criminal  prosecution  on  the  charge. A  charge  is  an  official  act  by which notification is given by the competent authority of an allegation that the accused person has committed a criminal offence.  In Attorney General v Blumears & Anor 1991(1) ZLR 118(s) AT 122A-B GUBBAY CJ said:

“The  standard  for  the  deprivation  of  personal  liberty  under  s  13(2)(e)  of  the Constitution are facts and circumstances sufficient to warrant a prudent man in suspecting that the accused person had committed, or was about to commit, a criminal offence.            

This   standard   represents   a   necessary   accommodation   between   the individual’s fundamental right to the protection of his personal liberty and the State’s duty to control crime.”

It is the existence or absence of reasonable suspicion of the accused person having committed the criminal offence he or she is charged with which provides an answer to the question whether pre-charge ill-treatment of an accused person had anything to do with the institution of the criminal prosecution.   The purpose of instituting criminal proceedings against an accused person on reasonable suspicion of having committed the criminal offence with which he or she is charged is to prove the circumstance of his or her guilt.  It is also to give effect to the law which proscribes the conduct he or she is charged with as a crime.  The decision  to charge the accused  person with the criminal  offence  and prosecute  the crime would be based on the evidence of acts he or she would be suspected of having committed before he or she was subjected to ill-treatment by law enforcement agents. The prosecution would be directly connected with the crime.

If  each  time  an  accused  person  was  subjected  to  torture,  or  inhuman  or degrading treatment prior to being charged with a criminal offence, the Court was obliged to order  a  permanent  stay  of  the  criminal  prosecution,  the  requirements  of  permissible deprivation of personal liberty which form the standard for the validity of the decision by the public prosecutor to institute the criminal proceedings against the accused person would be reduced to mere words.  It would implicate the principle of legality which requires the Court to uphold conduct which is in accordance with law.

The availability of the procedure under s 13(2)(e) of the Constitution means that where the criminal prosecution meets all the requirements of permissible deprivation of the accused person of liberty, it cannot be impugned notwithstanding the fact that the accused person was kidnapped and subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment before the charge was brought against him or her.  Section 24(4) of the Constitution provides a remedy to the individual whose fundamental  right has been violated.   No right to personal liberty would have been violated  in relation to the accused person by the institution  of criminal proceedings in the circumstances.  An illegal arrest or detention without more, has never been viewed as a bar to subsequent prosecution for an offence the accused person is reasonably suspected on untainted evidence of having committed.

That does not mean that the accused person has no remedy for the pre-charge contravention   of   fundamental   rights.                            Kidnapping   a   person   is   a   criminal   offence. Compensation  under s 13(5) of the Constitution  is payable to a person who is unlawfully arrested or detained.  It is also an appropriate remedy for the redress of a contravention of a fundamental right available to the Court in the exercise of the wide discretionary power under s 24(4) of the Constitution.

A finding that the decision by a public prosecutor to charge an accused person with a criminal offence was based on reasonable suspicion of his or her having committed the offence  effectively  means  that the criminal  prosecution  is lawful.   It means that there is evidence on which proof of the commission of the acts defined as the crime with which the accused  person  is charged  would  be based  at the trial. It also means  that the wrongful conduct of ill-treating the accused person prior to being charged with the criminal offence had nothing to do with the decisions to institute and conduct the criminal prosecution. S v Harington 1988(2) ZLR 344(S); Blanchard & Ors v Minister of Justice 1999(2) ZLR 24(S); Mthembu v The State 2008 SCA 51 para 35.

As a matter of law and fact it is clear that where reasonable suspicion of the accused person having committed a criminal offence existed at the time the public prosecutor charged him or her with the offence in question and commenced criminal prosecution proceedings, the prosecution must be taken to have been properly instituted regardless of the fact that the accused person was subjected to torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment prior to the charge being brought against him or her.   The charge and prosecution  would be a product of the consideration by the public prosecutor of evidence on the conduct of alleged wrong doing by the accused person.

There is nothing in the Constitution  which requires  the Court to permit an accused person, reasonably suspected of a criminal offence and properly charged, to escape prosecution because he or she was subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment prior to the charge being brought against him or her.   The Constitution does not guarantee protection   against   prosecution   to  an  accused  person  reasonably   suspected   of  having committed a criminal offence on account of having been subjected to torture, or inhuman or degrading  treatment  before  the  charge  was  laid  on  him  or  her.                                                                                                             

Giving  effect  to  the proposition advanced on behalf of the applicant would violate the constitutional principle of proportionality.   The principle requires that a fair balance be struck between the interests of the  individual  in  the  protection  of  his  or  her  fundamental  rights  and  freedoms  and  the interests of the public in having those reasonably suspected of having committed criminal offences tried and if convicted, punished according to law.

Acting in the manner suggested by the applicant, would mean that the purpose of criminal law is to protect the interests of a person suspected of crime at the expense of the victim and society.   That would be tantamount to providing a guarantee of immunity from prosecution  to a person  reasonably  suspected  of having committed  a criminal  offence  in every case in which proof is produced that he or she was kidnapped and subjected to torture or inhuman  or degrading  treatment  by agents  of the State  prior to being charged  with a criminal offence.  The victims of crime would be denied the right to the protection of the law. Justice demands, however, that each man and woman be given what is due by his or her conduct.

It would also mean that one person who fell into the hands of law enforcement agents who decided to break the law and maltreat him or her would escape prosecution whilst another person who fell into the hands of law abiding law enforcement agents would not.

That would be despite the fact that they were both reasonably suspected of having committed the criminal offences with which they were charged.  Each would have known that his or her act was criminal.  He or she would have committed the act before being placed in the custody of law enforcement agents.

Where  there  is  no  direct  connection  between  the  fruits  of  the  torture  or inhuman or degrading treatment to which the accused was subjected and the institution of the criminal prosecution, justification for an order of permanent stay of the criminal proceedings cannot be found in the pre-charge ill-treatment of the accused person.  If the order were made it would be on the ground that there was no reasonable  suspicion  of the accused person having committed the offence with which he or she was charged.

In urging the first ground on the Court, Mr Gauntlett relied on the decision of the South African Appellate Division in S v Ebrahim 1991(2) SA 553(A).  It is necessary to briefly  look  at  the  circumstances  in  which  the  decision  was  made  to  see  whether  the principles relied upon in that case are applicable to the facts of this case.

The appellant, a South African citizen by birth, fled to Swaziland whilst under a restriction  order which confined  him to Pinetown  in Natal.   In December 1986 he was forcibly  abducted  from  his  home  in  Mbabane  by persons  acting  as  agents  of  the  South African State.   He was taken to South Africa and handed over to the police.   The police detained him in terms of security legislation.   He was subsequently charged with treason, convicted and sentenced to twenty years imprisonment with labour.

Prior to pleading to the charge, the appellant launched an application seeking an order that the court lacked jurisdiction to try him.  The contention was that his abduction was in breach of international law and thus unlawful.   The application was dismissed.   An appeal against the ruling succeeded.

 

STEYN JA carried out a review of Roman and Roman-Dutch authorities on the question whether the court lacked jurisdiction.  The learned Judge of Appeal came to the conclusion that under both systems the removal of a person from an area of jurisdiction in which he had been illegally  arrested to another area was considered  to be tantamount  to abduction.   The court held that there was a rule at common law which limited a court’s jurisdiction  in  criminal  cases.        

That  rule  was  to  the  effect  that  even  if  an  offence  was committed within the area of jurisdiction of the court it does not have jurisdiction to try the offender if he was abducted from another area of jurisdiction by agents of the State.

The head note to the judgment shows that the court continued at p 582C-E as follows:

“Several fundamental legal principles are implicit in these rules (of the Roman-Dutch Law) namely,  the preservation  and promotion  of human rights, good international relations  and  sound  administration  of  justice. The  individual  must  be  protected against unlawful detention and against abduction, the boundaries of jurisdiction must not be violated, State sovereignty must be respected, the legal process must be fair towards those who are affected by it and the misuse of the legal process must be avoided in order to protect and promote the dignity and integrity of the administration of justice.  The state is also bound thereby.  When the State itself is a party to a case, as for example in criminal cases, it must as it were come to court with “clean hands”. When the State is itself involved in an abduction over territorial boundaries, as in the present case, its hands are not clean.  Rules such as those mentioned are evidence of sound legal development of high quality.”

The court in Ebrahim’s case approved of the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal  for  the  Second  Circuit  in  United  States  v  Toscanino  500F  2d  267(1974).  The appellant,  an Italian  National  protested  that  agents  of the  United  States  government  had abducted  him from Uruguay  and taken  him to Brazil  where he was held in custody and tortured.   From there he was conveyed by aeroplane to the United States.   He was arrested and brought to trial on a charge of conspiring to import narcotics into the country.

The trial court had followed the prevailing judicial authorities on the interpretation of the principle of due process and its application to such cases.  Judicial policy at the time was represented by the decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Ker v Illinois (1886) 119US 436 and Frisbie v Collins (1952) 342 US519.   These decisions held that where an accused person was brought to court on a proper charge he or she was in the lawful custody of the court and as such the court had no right to inquire into the means or method used to secure his or her presence before the court.

In holding that the concept of due process under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution had been broadly interpreted and as such justified an inquiry by a court into the circumstances in which an accused person had been brought before the court, the Federal Court of Appeal departed from the line of binding decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States.   In United States v Alvaren – Machain (1992) 119 Led. 2nd  441 that court  re-affirmed  its  previous  decisions  by  a  majority  thereby  effectively  overruling  the decision in Toscanino’s case.

The reasoning in Ebrahim’s case was endorsed by the Court in S v Beahan 1991(2) ZLR 98(S) as having “the quality of being in accord with justice, fairness and good sense”.  The principles  have  been applied  in subsequent  similar  type situations  in South Africa;  in  Mohammed  v  President  of  the  Republic  of  South  Africa  & Ors  2001(3)  SA 893(CC).

The same principles have been adopted and applied by the United Kingdom courts in similar cases of accused persons who had been forcibly abducted from territories of sovereign States by security agents of the receiving State, in some cases with the connivance of the prosecution agency, in R v Horseferry Road Magistrates (1994) 1AC 42; R v Mullen [2000] QB 520; and R v Loosely [2001] UKHL 53.

There is no doubt that the contention urged on the Court was animated by the principles enunciated in Ebrahim’s case.  What is clear from the cases is that the principles in question provided a basis for an answer to a defence to the charge placed on the accused person to the effect that the court lacked jurisdiction to try him.  The reason given in each of the cases was that the appearance of the accused person before the court was brought about by  his  forcible  removal  by  agents  of  the  receiving  State  from  the  territory  of  another sovereign State in breach of international law and the sovereignty of that State.  The accused person would at the time of the abduction have been under the protection of the laws of the State  in  which  he  lived.  He  would  have  been  outside  the  boundaries  of  the  territorial jurisdiction of the court.

The cases merely recognised a long standing principle of international law that abduction  by  one  State  of  persons  located  within  the  territory  of  another,  violates  the territorial  sovereignty   of  the  second  State. The  breach  of  international   law  in  the circumstances is usually redressed by the return of the person abducted.

The principles enunciated in Ebrahim’s case and those that followed it, were applied  in  the  determination  of  the  question  of  lack  of  jurisdiction  because  the  courts accepted that the principles formed part of the meaning of the applicable international norms. They do not provide a basis for challenging the validity of decisions by a public prosecutor to charge a person who is resident in the area of jurisdiction of the court with a criminal offence which it has jurisdiction to hear.

The principles are not an answer to the question whether a court, whose duty is to protect fundamental human rights, can decline jurisdiction in a case in which the accused person complains that his or her fundamental rights have been contravened by the institution of criminal prosecution proceedings after he had been kidnapped and subjected to torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment by agents of the State within the area of jurisdiction of the court.  They are not applicable to facts of a case the consideration of which has to take into account  the existence  or absence  of reasonable  suspicion  by the public prosecutor  of the accused  person  having  committed  the  criminal  offence  with  which  he  or  she  has  been charged.

The principles enunciated in Ebrahim’s case cannot be transposed and applied to facts of cases which do not raise for determination questions of breach of boundaries of criminal law jurisdiction.  Different principles apply in the determination of the issues raised by the facts of this case.  The cocktail of the principles of the relevant international law would have  to  have  been  violated  by  the  receiving  State  before  a  criminal  prosecution  which followed could be said to be an abuse of legal process and a breach of the principles of protection and promotion of the dignity and integrity of the administration of justice.   The cocktail comprises the principles of the preservation  and promotion of the human right to personal  liberty; the protection  of individuals  from unlawful detention  and abduction;  the protection  of  boundaries  of  territorial  jurisdiction  and  the  protection  of  foreign  State sovereignty.  Needless to say the last two principles would not form part of the law applicable to the facts of this case.

The analogy was inappropriate.   The forcible abduction of an accused person from foreign territory by agents of the receiving State has the effect of barring jurisdiction by the courts because it involves breach of an affront to the sovereignty of the refuge State.  The act of arresting a person is an act of sovereignty.  In such a case that power would have been exercised by one State in the territory of another State.  Deriving from the cases of foreign abduction the proposition that in every case in which the accused person was subjected to torture, or inhuman, or degrading treatment before being charged with the crime the Court is obliged to order a permanent stay of the criminal prosecution was an ingenious argument which  was unhelpful  in the determination  of the issues.                                                                                              To discharge  the constitutional mandate of enforcing or securing the enforcement of fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution, the Court must exercise the power expressly conferred on it.  Its duty is to determine the question whether the conduct of the State forming the subject of complaint contravenes the fundamental right or freedom sought to be enforced.  It must come up with  an affirmative  or negative  answer  to that question  after consideration  of all the circumstances of the case.

It is unthinkable, in the circumstances, that the Court can restrict the exercise of the power and not inquire into the method by which the presence of an accused person before it was secured.   It has to inquire if the allegation is that the conduct of the public officers involved in bringing the accused person violated his or her fundamental right.  The only occasion in which the Court can decline to exercise its powers under s 24(4) of the Constitution is if it is satisfied that adequate means of redress for the contravention alleged are or have been available to the person under other provisions of the Constitution or under any other law.  What it cannot do is to decline to exercise the power to determine the question whether or not the fundamental right has been or is being or is likely to be contravened by the conduct of the State forming the subject of complaint properly brought before it.

The argument that a criminal prosecution following a pre-charge illegal arrest, detention and infliction of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment constituted abuse of process  requiring  a stay of proceedings  would  have  to contend  with the requirements  of s 13(2)(e) of the Constitution and show the fundamental right or freedom guaranteed by the Constitution  that has been violated  by the institution  of the criminal prosecution  in those circumstances.  It is not necessary to consider the argument in this case.

THE SECOND GROUND

Effect of Pre-charge Abduction and Violation of s 15(1) on Criminal Prosecution

 

The  second  ground  on  which  the  validity  of  the  decision  to  institute  the criminal prosecution was challenged was that the prosecution was unlawful because it was based  on  information  or  evidence  obtained  from  the  applicant  by  infliction  of  torture, inhuman and degrading treatment.

In  the  raising  of  the  issue  of  the  wrongful  conduct  of  public  officers antecedent to the charge being brought against the accused person and its connection with the prosecution proceedings instituted was the suggestion that the responsibility of the State was engaged  in occasioning  a violation of the accused person’s fundamental  right to personal liberty.  In such a case there had to be produced clear evidence of a direct connection between the antecedent breach of the fundamental right of the accused not to be subjected to torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment and the decision to charge and prosecute him or her.  The institution of the criminal prosecution had to be shown to have been a direct consequence of the precedent wrongful conduct of the State.   In other words it had to be a product of the outrageous  conduct of pre-charge  ill-treatment  of the accused person by law enforcement agents.

According to the applicant the use by the public prosecutor of information obtained from her by infliction of the treatment prohibited by s 15(1) of the Constitution, is evidence of the existence of the requisite direct connection between antecedent violation of the  fundamental  right  and  the  criminal  prosecution. The  criminal  prosecution  was  an outgrowth  or  fruit  of  the  torture,  inhuman  and  degrading  treatment  to  which  she  was subjected.

The contention advanced on behalf of the applicant on the second ground was premised  upon  an  interpretation  of  the  provisions  of  s  15(1)  of  the  Constitution  which recognises that the prohibition contains a rule, by which it imposes an obligation on public officers charged with the responsibilities  of initiating and conducting criminal prosecution and judicial officers who preside over them, not to admit or use information  or evidence obtained  from an accused  person  or any third party by torture,  or inhuman  or degrading treatment.

Three issues arise in this context for determination.   They are: (i) whether or not s 15(1) of the Constitution contains a rule prohibiting the admission or use, in any legal proceedings, of information or evidence obtained from an accused person or defendant or any third party by infliction of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.  (ii) On whom does the burden  of proving the essential  elements  of the rule lie and what is the standard  for the discharge of the onus.   (iii)   What effect does a finding that the onus has been discharged have on the question of the contravention of the fundamental rights of the accused person protected under ss 13(1); 15(1) and 18(1) of the Constitution.

 

Section 15(1) of the Constitution and Evidence obtained by Torture

The Court takes the first point for determination.   Its decision on the point is that s 15(1) of the Constitution contains the rule by which it imposes on the State, through its agents, the obligation not to admit or use in any legal proceedings, information or evidence obtained from an accused person or defendant or any third party by torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment.  The reasons for the decision are these.

Article 15 of the UN Convention on Torture requires State parties to ensure “that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked  as  evidence  in  any  proceedings  except  against  a  person  accused  of  torture  as evidence that the statement was made”.  Article 15 of the African Commission Guidelines on the Rights to a Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa and Article 16 of the Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders in Havana Cuba on 27 August to 7 September 1990 are important.  They recognise the existence of an obligation on the public prosecutors not to use or rely on information or evidence obtained from an accused person or any third party by torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment to make decisions in the exercise of prosecutorial powers.

 

The  relevance  of  the  reference  to the  provisions  of  Article  15 of the  UN Convention on Torture is not in the substance of the obligation imposed on State parties.  It is on  the  principle  of  interpretation  involved. Of  importance  to  the  determination  of  the question before the Court, is the recognition and acceptance of the principle that the rules in Article  15  of  the  UN  Convention  on  Torture  and  the  UN  Guidelines  on  the  Role  of Prosecutors  are  based  on  the  interpretation  of  Article  5  of  the  Universal  Declaration  of Human Rights (1948).  Article 5 prohibits in absolute and non-derogable terms infliction of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on any person.

 

The African Commission  Guidelines  on Legal Assistance  are based on the interpretation  of  the  relevant  provisions  of  the  African  Charter  on  Human  and  People’s Rights (1981).   Article 5 of the African Charter prohibits torture, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment of any person.  The principle of interpretation which emerges is that the fact that a stand-alone rule has been used to denote the meaning of a primary provision does not prevent a court interpreting the meaning of a primary provision in similar language as  covering  the  matters  explicitly  dealt  with  in  the  rule  if  the  meaning  of  the  primary provision has not been explained by a similar rule.

The  principle  under  consideration  was  applied  by  the  European  Court  of Human Rights in Soering v United Kingdom (1989) 11 EHRR 439.  That Court held, on the interpretation of Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1953) (“the ECHR”), that the prohibition by the Article was the basis for the rule against admission or use of information or evidence established to have been obtained or in respect to which there were substantial grounds for believing that it was obtained from the defendant or a third party by infliction of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment.

 

Considering the fact that Article 3 of the ECHR did not spell out in specific terms as did Article 3 of the UN Convention on Torture that no State “shall extradite a person where  there  are  substantial  grounds  for  believing  that  he  would  be  in  danger  of  being subjected to torture”, the European Court of Human Rights at para 88 of the judgment in Soering’s case supra said:

“The  fact that  a specialised  treaty should  spell  out in detail  a specific  obligation attaching  to  the  prohibition  of  torture  does  not  mean  that  an  essentially  similar obligation is not already inherent in the general terms of Article 3 of the European Convention.”

The obligation on the State, through its agents, not to admit or use in criminal proceedings, information or evidence obtained from an accused person or any third party by infliction of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment is not explicitly set out by a separate provision  in  the  Constitution.  It  would  be  contrary  to  the  object  and  purpose  of  the prohibition under s 15(1) of the Constitution to allow admission or use of such information or evidence in any legal proceedings.

A proper interpretation of s 15(1) of the Constitution which takes into account the purpose and broadness of the language underlying the importance  of the fundamental value protected, compels the Court to conclude that the obligation on the State not to admit or use information or evidence obtained from an accused person or any third party by infliction of  torture,  or  inhuman  or  degrading  treatment  in  any  legal  proceedings  attaches  to  the prohibition of such treatment by s 15(1) of the Constitution.

 

The obligation is inherent in the general terms of the section.  It enjoys with the  general  prohibition  the  same  qualities  of  being  absolute  and  non-derogable.  The condemnation  is  more  aptly  categorised  as  a  constitutional  principle  than  as  a  rule  of evidence.    The obligation is an exception to the general rule of evidence enacted by s 48(1) of the Civil Evidence Act [Cap. 8:01].  That rule is to the effect that evidence of violation of a fundamental right or freedom is admissible in legal proceedings unless its admission would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.   Paradza v Chirwa & Ors NNO 2005(2) ZLR 94(S) at 111G-112D; A & Ors v Secretary for State for Home Affairs [2005] UKHL 71 para 12.

 

At various stages of the whole process of proceedings by which the State deals with persons suspected of crime who are in the custody of public officers, the Constitution imposes duties for the protection of the fundamental rights of the suspect.  The primary duty is on the law enforcement  agents not to abuse executive  authority in the investigation  of crime  by  torturing  or  treating  suspects  in  an  inhuman  or  degrading  manner  to  extract information or confessions to be used against them in legal proceedings anticipated to follow the ill-treatment. If the duty fails to achieve  its intended  purpose  at this stage,  the law imposes the duty on public prosecutors not to admit or use information or evidence obtained from an accused person suspected of having committed a criminal offence or any third party by torture, inhuman or degrading treatment when making prosecutorial decisions.  If the duty fails at this stage the law imposes the duty on judicial officers.   Eventually it lies with the Court to intervene through the exercise of its original jurisdiction to enforce or secure the enforcement of fundamental rights.

 

The  rationale  for  the  exclusionary  rule  is  the  protection  of  any  person suspected of a crime who is in the custody of a public officer from torturous, or inhumane or debasing invasions of his or her dignity and physical integrity.   Its object is to ensure that criminal prosecutions which are a direct consequence of the pre-trial illegality violative of fundamental  rights of an accused person to freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment are not used to give legitimacy to such conduct.

 

The rule has nothing to do with the fair determination of the guilt or innocence of  the  accused  person.  Where  there  is  independent  evidence  which  has  been  obtained lawfully and on which reasonable  suspicion  of the accused person having committed  the criminal offence with which he or she is charged is founded, an order of permanent stay of a criminal prosecution is not justified.  The rule represents a device designed to deter disregard for constitutional prohibitions and give substance to constitutionally protected fundamental rights.       The  exclusionary  rule  as  a  remedy  for  the  enforcement  of  the  protection  of fundamental  rights under the Constitution  is not intended to immunise an accused person from  criminal  prosecution  for  any  action  he  or  she  is  reasonably  suspected  of  having committed which is provable at the trial by independent evidence lawfully obtained.

Information or evidence obtained from an accused person or any third party by torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment if admitted or used in legal proceedings would reduce s 15(1) of the Constitution to a mere form of words.   As JACKSON J put it in the dissenting opinion in Korematsu v United States (1944) 323 US 214 at 246 “once judicial approval is given to such conduct it lies about like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need”.  In People (Attorney- General) v O’Brien (1965) IR 142 KINGSMILL MOORE J of the Supreme Court of Ireland said that:

“to  countenance  the  use  of  evidence  extracted  or  discovered  by  gross  personal violence would ... involve the State in moral defilement.”

In A & Ors supra at para 35 LORD BINGHAM OF CORNHILL quotes from a report by Mr Alvaro Gil – Robles, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights on his visit to the United Kingdom in November 2004 (8 June 2005 Comm. D.H 2005) where he said:

“Torture  is torture  whoever  does  it, judicial  proceedings  are judicial  proceedings, whatever their purpose - the former can never be admissible in the latter.”

Giving as a reason for holding in S v Nkomo 1989(3) ZLR 117(S) that a court was under an obligation not to admit or use in any proceedings evidence of objects pointed out as part of confessions extracted from an accused person by torture MCNALLY JA at p 131F said:

“It does not seem to me that one can condemn torture while making use of the mute confession resulting from that torture, because the effect is to encourage torture.”

In A & Ors supra at para 39 LORD BINGHAM OF CORNHILL quotes from the work on “The United Nations Convention Against Torture” (1988) where Burgers and Danelius suggest at p 148 that:

“... it should be recalled that torture is often aimed at ensuring evidence in judicial proceedings.   Consequently, if a statement made under torture cannot be invoked as evidence, an important reason for using torture is removed and the prohibition against the use of such statements as evidence before a court can therefore have the indirect effect of preventing torture.”

 

Lastly, in Mthembu’s case supra the South African Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the admission of evidence obtained through the use of torture would compromise the integrity of the judicial process and bring the administration of justice into disrepute.  The reason given is that torture is barbaric, illegal and inhuman and is one of the most serious of human rights violations.   That court applied the exclusionary rule against the admission or use of information or evidence obtained by torture in legal proceedings as an exception to the general rule contained in s 35(5) of the Constitution of South Africa.  The section provides that:

“evidence obtained in a manner that violates any right in the Bill of Rights must be excluded if the admission of that evidence would render that trial unfair or otherwise be detrimental to the administration of justice.”

 

It is clear that the rationale for the exclusionary rule against the admission or use  of  information  or  evidence  obtained  from  an  accused  person  or  any  third  party  by infliction of torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment as contained in s 15(1) of the Constitution, is founded on the absolute obligation imposed on the State.  It is also founded on the revulsion which attaches to the source of such information or evidence coupled with its offensiveness to civilized values and its degrading effect on the administration of justice. The rule applies even when the evidence is reliable and necessary to secure the conviction of an  accused  person  facing  serious  charges.     The  reliability  or  probative  value  of  the information or evidence is irrelevant because its admissibility is prohibited in absolute and peremptory terms.   It is vital in a society governed by the rule of law that persons in the custody of public officials should not be subjected to ill-treatment of the level of severity prohibited by s 15(1) of the Constitution.

 

 

ONUS

 

The Court takes the second point for determination.   Its decision is that the onus is on the applicant to establish, on a balance of probabilities, that the information or evidence of the crime used by the public prosecutor to charge her with the criminal offence and prosecute  her for it was obtained by the infliction of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment at the hands of the State security agents prior to the charge being brought against her.  The reason for the decision is that it is the accused person or defendant who has to raise the question of contravention of fundamental rights by the State.  It is he or she who would have knowledge of what was done to him or her and what information was extracted as a result of the ill-treatment.  It was then for the State to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the decision to charge the applicant  with and prosecute  the criminal  offence  was taken upon consideration of independent information or evidence of the crime lawfully obtained and on which reasonable suspicion of her having committed the criminal offence was based.

 

The  applicant  discharged  the  onus  on  her. She  established  by  oral  and affidavit evidence that in bringing the charge of contravening s 24(a) of the Act against her and initiating the prosecution proceedings, the public prosecutor relied solely on information on the commission of the alleged criminal acts obtained from her and a third party by torture, inhuman and degrading treatment.   There was an inextricable link between the ill-treatment and the criminal prosecution.  No evidence was placed before the Court by the respondent to show that the decisions by the public prosecutor were based on independent evidence of the crime which was lawfully obtained.  It is important to emphasise the fact that the ordering of the exclusion of evidence obtained by torture or inhuman or degrading treatment assumes implicitly  that the remedy  does not extend  to barring  the prosecution  based on evidence wholly untainted by the misconduct of the law enforcement agents.   It is also important to point out that where the allegations by the accused are contested by the State, it is the court

 

 

before which the allegations are first made or the trial court which must hear the parties and decide question of facts.

 

Effect on Violation of Exclusionary Rule

 

Finally, the Court takes the third point for determination.  Its decision on this point  is that the effect  of the finding that the public prosecutor  relied on information  or evidence  of the  commission  of the alleged  criminal  acts obtained  from the applicant  by torture, inhuman and degrading treatment in deciding to charge her with and prosecute her for the criminal offence, is that there was a breach of ss 15(1) and 13(1) of the Constitution.  The breach of s 13(1) of the Constitution lies not in the use of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment to obtain the information or evidence of the crime from the applicant.   That is a breach of s 15(1) of the Constitution.

 

The violation of s 13(1) of the Constitution lies in the use of, or reliance by the public prosecutor on, the information or evidence obtained by torture, inhuman and degrading treatment for the purposes of making the prosecutorial decisions.  Had the public prosecutor rejected the information  or evidence  of the crime obtained from the applicant by torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, there would have been a violation of s 15(1) of the Constitution but no breach of s 13(1) provided the criminal prosecution was supported by a reasonable  suspicion  of  her  having  committed  the  criminal  offence  with  which  she  was charged.   The reason is that the criminal prosecution would be a proceeding for the proof beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused person of the crime with which he or she is charged, based on no more or less evidence of the criminal acts than was available at the time of their commission.

 

 

The criminal prosecution was a direct consequence of the violation of s 15(1) of the Constitution.  The absolute and non-derogable fundamental right of the applicant not to have information or evidence of the crime obtained from her or any third party by torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment used or relied upon by the public prosecutor in making the prosecutorial  decisions  to charge  her with the criminal  offence  and institute  the criminal prosecution was contravened.  There was also a violation of the applicant’s fundamental right to the protection  of the law guaranteed  by s 18(1) of the Constitution.   By acting in the manner he did, the public prosecutor failed to act in accordance with the requirements of the protection of the fundamental rights prescribed by ss 15(1) and 13(1) of the Constitution.  He acted in breach of the principle of the rule of law.

 

It is clear from the facts that at the time the State security agents kidnapped the applicant from home and later detained her at the secret place, they did not have reasonable suspicion of her having committed the criminal offence she was later charged with.   They then used torture, inhuman and degrading treatment during interrogation to extract from her information or evidence on which   they expected that the public prosecutor would act as a basis of a reasonable suspicion of her having committed the criminal offence with which she was then charged.   The effect of the operation of the exclusionary  rule is that the whole conduct of the State security agents in kidnapping and detaining the applicant and subjecting her to torture, inhuman and degrading treatment was a violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed  to her by s 13(1), 15(1) and 18(1) of the Constitution.   It also shows that the criminal prosecution was a direct consequence of the violation of s 15(1) of the Constitution thereby engaging the responsibility of the State in the contravention of ss 13(1) and 18(1) of the Constitution.  In so far as the applicant  suggested  that she should not be prosecuted because her presence in court followed her unlawful arrest or kidnapping and ill-treatment by State security agents she could not claim immunity from prosecution on those grounds alone

 

 

because her body is not a suppressible fruit and the illegality of her detention and treatment could not deprive the Government of the opportunity to prosecute her and prove her guilt on independent evidence wholly untainted by the misconduct of law enforcement agents.  United States  v  Crews  445  US  463(1980)  p474,  Key  v  Attorney  General  & Anor  1996(4)  SA 187(CC) at 195G-196B.

COSTS

The Court takes the question of costs for determination.   Its decision on this point is that there be no order as to costs.  The reasons for the decision are these.

Section 24(4) of the Constitution gives the Court a wide discretion as to the choice of a practical and effective remedy which can appropriately redress a violation of a fundamental human right or freedom.  An order of permanent stay of the criminal prosecution was considered by the Court to be the appropriate remedy for the redress of the violation of the  applicant’s  fundamental  rights. The  violation  would  otherwise  have  continued.  In re Mlambo 1991(2) ZLR 339(S) at 355B-E.   In selecting an appropriate remedy under the Constitution the primary concern of the Court must be to apply the measures that will best vindicate the values expressed in the Constitution and to provide the form of remedy to those whose  rights  have  been  violated  that  best  achieves  that  objective.  This  flows  from  the Court’s  role as guardian  of the rights  and freedoms  which are entrenched  as part of the Supreme law of the country.  Osborne v Canada (1991) 82D.L.R. (4th) 321 at 346e-f.

Costs are in the discretion of the Court.  It is permissible in cases of this nature to order that costs incurred should follow the event.   Bull v Attorney-General of Zimbabwe

1987(1) ZLR 35(S).   Nonetheless a constitutional question was raised with regard to which the answer was not self-evident.  The question whether s 15(1) of the Constitution imposes an absolute and non-derogable  obligation on the State, through its agents, not to admit or use

 

 

information  or evidence  of  the  crime  obtained  from  an  accused  person  or defendant  by infliction on him or her or any third party of torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment had not been raised and exhaustively determined by the Court before.

 

The opportunity arose for the Court to clarify the law on the fundamental right of a person accused of a crime not to have information or evidence obtained from him or her by infliction of torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment admitted or used against him or her in any legal proceedings.  The legal question had to be clarified not only for the benefit of accused  persons  in similar  circumstances.                                                            It has been clarified  for the benefit  of public prosecutors  and  judicial  officers.                                The  victor  is  therefore  not  the  applicant  but  the administration  of justice.   The respondent  did not challenge the correctness of the factual basis of the constitutional question.  He properly took the view that the resolution of the legal question was in the public interest.   The Court considers that the respondent should not be penalised by an order of costs.  There will be no order as to costs.

 

 

 

CHIDYAUSIKU CJ:                             I agree

SANDURA JA:                                    I agree

ZIYAMBI JA:                                       I agree

GARWE JA:                                        I agree

 

 

Mtetwa and Nyambirai, applicant’s legal practitioners

Civil Division of the Attorney-General’s Office, respondent’s legal practitioners