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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

K. Forced Confessions

We heard several harrowing accounts of the use of torture to extract confessions. In the main, attempts to extract confessions preceded internment at Quatro. The means used to extract confessions were, according to the witnesses, brutal in the extreme. We cite but three examples.

Most of the witnesses who appeared before the Commission from whom confessions were allegedly extracted by torture stated that they had made the confessions simply to escape the pain. They denied that their confessions were true.

While our terms of reference do not require us to investigate the validity of the reasons for the original detention, we cannot turn a blind eye to the evidence of the use of torture to extract confessions and the effect of such torture on the legal process which ensued. The civilised world has set its face against the use of torture for moral and practical considerations. From a practical point of view, evidence extracted by torture is often dangerously unreliable. It takes little imagination to understand that those detained in harsh conditions and subjected to the type of brutality described above would say anything to bring their agony to an end. Indeed, as is illustrated by one of the examples referred to, the confession in question was palpably false.

The moral argument against the use of torture surely requires no elaboration. In the case of the ANC, it is specifically prohibited by the Code of Conduct and is outlawed by the Geneva Convention to which the ANC subscribed. We were particularly struck by an observation made by Mr Hani. He expressed the view that a weakness in the security department was that those responsible for interrogation had insufficient contact with South Africa and lacked the means of checking the veracity of answers to questions, so that an onus was in effect placed upon suspects to prove their innocence. Dr Jordan expressed a similar view.

The Commission also heard the evidence of Mr James Stuart who chaired certain tribunals set up to deal with alleged offences. He corroborated the evidence presented by certain former detainees that force was used to extract confessions. He advised us that many cases were dismiss fly reason of the fact that the confessions were not voluntary. He told us of a case that had come before him where, due to confusion in the use of code names, the detainee had confessed to murdering himself!

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.