Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the circumstances associated or surrounding with and leading to the search of the luggage of the Hon. Wavel Ramkalawan on Saturday the 8th February 2020
Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the circumstances associated or surrounding with and leading to the search of the luggage of the Hon. Wavel Ramkalawan, Leader of the Opposition, on Saturday the 8th February 2020, at the Seychelles International Airport by the officers of the Anti-Narcotics Bureau of the Police Force of Seychelles.
Commissioner Justice of Appeal Robinson
The Commission of Inquiry was established to look into the circumstances surrounding the search of the luggage of Hon. Wavel Ramkalawan, Leader of the Opposition, on Saturday 8 February 2020 at the Seychelles International Airport, by the officers of the Anti-Narcotics Bureau (ANB) upon Hon. Ramkalawan’s return to Seychelles from South Africa at approximately 9.35 pm. Hon. Ramkalawan was stopped by an ANB officer, who searched a piece of Hon. Ramkalawan’s luggage and observed and inspected his diplomatic passport. The Officer testified that searched the luggage because Hon. Ramkalawan suggested that he conduct the search, telling him that persons were saying on Facebook that he brings cocaine in the country. Hon. Ramkwalawan referred specifically to a Kakasat – Nouvel Anba Langar Facebook post. Nothing illegal was found in the luggage.
After exiting the airport, Hon. Ramkalawan attempted to contact the Deputy Commissioners of Police, but was unsuccessful. He resorted to texting the President of the Republic to inform him that the search had occurred. A police inquiry was conducted into the search. In a press release dated 11 February 2020 the Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) condemned the search. Thereafter, SBC interviewed Hon. Ramkalawan which was aired on national television on 12 February 2020.
The President of the Republic of Seychelles appointed a Commission of Inquiry in terms of section 2 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act on 19 February 2020 to “inquire into the circumstances associated or surrounding with and leading to the search of the luggage of Hon. Wavel Ramkalawan… at the Seychelles International Airport by Officers of the Anti-Narcotics Bureau of the Police Force of Seychelles” and “render a report of the finding of the Commissioner and reasons for such findings”.
At the inquiry, written statements and oral testimonies were obtained from all relevant parties. Video footage and documentary evidence of facebook posts and press releases were also reviewed. The matter attracted a fair amount of public attention and the public and media were permitted to observe the proceedings.
The Commissioner found that Hon. Ramkalawan was responsible for having instigated the search of his luggage through his interaction with the relevant officer. However, under section 25(1)(a) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 2016 (the Act), an officer must not search a person, even with his consent or with the voluntary submission to the search, unless the search is in accordance with sections 25(1)(a) of the Act, which requires that the ANB officer has reasonable grounds for suspicion before he searches the luggage. In this case, the ANB officer lacked reasonable grounds for suspicion of Hon. Ramkalawan. Consequently, the search was unlawful as the ANB Officer had admitted that he did not have reasonable suspicion.
Furthermore, the Commissioner recommended that standard operating procedures should clearly outline the statutory powers of an officer under section 25(1)(a) of the Act and should be readily available in all police stations and other relevant working places for all officers to consult. Officers should also be trained in such procedures.
The Commissioner remarked further that:
“There is, at present, a worrisome situation. Powers of stop and search without first making an arrest must be used justly, dutifully, responsibly with respect to the relevant fundamental rights and freedoms of persons being searched. ANB officers of the Police Force discharging their duties and performing their functions must have regard to the law.”