Zimbabwe Supreme Court rules in favour of Jestina Mukoko

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On Monday 28 September 2009 the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe, sitting as a Constitutional Court, delivered its ruling in favour of human rights activist Jestina Mukoko.

After her abduction, detention and torture by persons admitted by Minister Mutasa and Attorney-General Tomana to be ‘State agents’ whom they refused to identify, Ms Mukoko was charged earlier this year with conspiring to overthrow the Mugabe regime. Pursuant to these charges, and in the light of her treatment, two FUL Board Members, Beatrice Mtethwa and Jeremy Gauntlett SC, applied on her behalf for a permanent stay of prosecution.

Granting the stay on Monday, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku held that Zimbabwe’s security agents infringed Ms Mukoko’s constitutional rights to liberty; protection from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment; and protection by the law. Although the order was handed down three months after the hearing, and was unanimous, no judgment was delivered with the order. This was not explained, but the order indicates that full reasons for the ruling will be handed down ‘in due course’.

The ruling is expected to provide protection also to other human rights activists and members of opposition political parties facing comparable criminal prosecutions.

In the meantime civil proceedings have been instituted on behalf of Ms Mukoko against the Government of Zimbabwe for damages to vindicate her infringed rights. The Government of Zimbabwe is now in default of filing its defence to the action.