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


Judgment No. SC 11/12 1

Const. Application No. 36/09



DISTRIBUTED BY VERITAS

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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 applicants 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 applicants 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 organisations 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 persons 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 persons 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 applicants 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 applicants 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 individuals 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 individuals fundamental right to the protection of his personal liberty and the States 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 courts 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 Ebrahims 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 Toscaninos case.


The reasoning in Ebrahims 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


sove