Transporting prisoners and suspects in police vehicles and vans not fitted with seats or seat belts was inhumane and unconstitutional.

The police must use ­vehicles similar to those used in America to ensure prisoners and suspects were not treated in a cruel, inhumane, degrading way.

This is according to the Tebeila Institute of Leadership, Education, Governance and Training.

It will turn to the High Court in Limpopo on Thursday asking for an order that the SAPS start using vehicles fitted with seats and safety belts when transporting ­detainees.

Ranti Dikgale, the legal service manager of Tebeila, said in court papers that it had come to their attention that many police vehicles - including cars, trucks and vans - were not fitted with seats or safety belts.

Pictures of vehicles that lack such parts will be handed to the court on Thursday.

Dikgale said it was clear that these vehicles were not meant to transport humans.

“It will be submitted that the use of police vans or ­police trucks and vehicles with no seats or seat belts fitted for the suspects or ­arrestees to be transported in, constitutes a torture of some kind.

“This is because while they are kept at the back of these police vans and trucks, they may suffer injuries in instances of negligent driving or the unexpected stopping of the vehicles.”

Apart from this, detainees had a constitutional right not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhumane and degrading way, he said.

“Vans and trucks are meant to transport goods, and not human beings.

“The use of police vans and trucks to transport detainees amounts to cruel treatment,” he said.

Dikgale said the SAPS should use less restrictive means to transport these ­people, without violating their dignity or endangering their lives.

The traffic rules in any event required passengers to wear seat belts, he said.

Dikgale said the prisoners and detainees sat randomly in the back of the trucks and vans.

He added that police cars used in the US were safe and protected the human rights of prisoners and detainees.

“The SAPS should follow this example,” he said.