n Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - The need for clarity on whether 'suspects' may rely on section 35 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 : a comparative law analysis

Volume 43, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0010-4051



This article examines whether the police have a constitutional duty to inform 'suspects' about their fundamental rights, despite the fact that section 35 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, is silent on this issue. The decisions of the different divisions of the South African High Court diverge on this question, and the Constitutional Court has not yet had the opportunity to settle it. In an attempt to resolve this question, this article considers the underlying principles of binding and non-binding international law standards, as well as how this is approached in the Canadian and United States' jurisdictions. This analysis reveals that an emerging consensus of opinion is developing which suggests that the informational duties should arise from the moment the police embark on an adversarial relationship with suspects, by approaching them to establish or disprove the existence of evidence linking them to a crime. The author concludes that such an approach accords with a contextual and purposive interpretation, and should be embraced.

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