State concedes Mukoko’s abduction was illegal
By Tichaona Sibanda
25 June 2009
A state prosecutor on Thursday conceded that the way human rights campaigner Jestina Mukoko was abducted by state security agents, was illegal. The 53 year-old former news reader has taken her case to the Supreme Court, seeking a permanent stay of her prosecution.
A full bench of the Supreme Court heard submissions from state prosecutor Fatima Maxwell that they did not dispute Mukoko’s evidence that she was abducted and held incommunicado against her will, which also violated her human rights.
Asked by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku if she was conceding that Mukoko’s abduction and detention were illegal, Maxwell replied; ‘Yes my Lord.’
Advocate Jeremy Gauntlet who was representing Mukoko along with lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, had told the court that Mukoko’s rights had been grossly violated, including by being denied medication and a lawyer, and by being kept in solitary confinement. She had also been tortured.
The state also conceded they did not dispute Mukoko’s evidence and had not questioned the security agents who had abducted her. Asked by the bench if Mukoko statements were accurate, Maxwell said the allegations as they stand, and if proved, were a clear violation of the three rights in the constitution. These are the right to liberty, the protection of the law and the right to freedom from torture.
The state however said the violations should not prevent Mukoko from being prosecuted, but rather there should be a separate inquiry to investigate the allegations. The court reserved judgment on the matter indefinitely. Defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama explained that the court will take its time to consider all the submissions from the state and defence, before it delivers its judgement.
‘It can be a week, a month but they will certainly deliver judgement,’ Muchadehama said, adding that the only way forward for the state now was to withdraw the case altogether.
‘It’s the only practical thing for them to do now. If we had a proper Attorney General or a proper Minister of Justice, we would likely not see the continuation of this case. Jestina must not be prosecuted. The state should actually turn to people who abducted her and lay charges of acting outside the law,’ Muchadehama said.