General News of Friday, 31 October 2003
Accra, Oct. 30, GNA - The Minority in Parliament on Thursday vehemently tried to oppose the ratification of the bilateral agreement between the Governments of Ghana and the United States of America but they were defeated in their bid to do so.
Mr Alban Bagbin, the Minority Leader, in his contribution bemoaned the fact that the House was not given the opportunity to listen to the status of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to make informed decision while a refusal of rectifying the Agreement will not mar the existing good relations with the US.
The Minority was contributing to the debate on the bilateral agreement after the Joint Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Defence and Interior presented its Report on the agreement between the two countries regarding the surrender of persons to the International Criminal Court.
Mr Bagbin said equality before the law was supreme and Ghana could not allow such a discriminatory law affect its sovereignty and international relations.
He said the Rome Statute was the ideal for evolving democracies that would ensure their right to democratic governance and capability of referring offenders to the ICC for trial against genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression.
The Minority urged the House to defend the interest of the nation by rejecting the bilateral agreement or else posterity would hold them responsible for any actions taken.
Mr Ken Dzirasah, Second Deputy Speaker, said the ratification of the agreement would undermine the credibility of the ICC in trying international crimes as well as ethnic cleansing. He said the agreement sought to defeat the rule of equality before the law and to create an enclave of untouchables, who would not be answerable to the ICC but to the caprice of the Super Powers.
Mr Dzirasah said there was information that most of the 24 African countries did not sign their agreements through their Parliaments and, therefore, called for more credible arguments to justify the ratification of the agreement.
"When we sign this Agreement we shall be turned into defenceless beggars in perpetuity and this must not be allowed to happen in this House since any decision taken today binds the country forever to other peoples aprons", he said.
Mr Dzirasah said this type of friendship was not justifiable but that it should be built on mutual respect for each other and that he was not convinced as to which way the proponents of the Agreement thought the national interest would be served.
He said: "This hurdle of justifying the national interest is further compounded by the threat of sanctions for countries that do not sign and ratify the agreement. How cheap can we be to stoop so low for only four million dollars when we could have bargained as proud beggars."
Mr Dzirasah said the effects of the agreement would be that it automatically violated the extradition orders already signed with other countries while asking for a secret ballot to determine the decision of the House since some members would be afraid to openly oppose the Agreement.
Alhaji Muhammed Mumuni, NDC-Kumbungu, said some of the articles of the agreement were discriminatory and amounted to narrowing and violating the Rome Treaty of which Ghana was one of its first signatories.
He said in human history the African continent was the most traumatised and it should be in the forefront of fighting against violations of human right.
Dr Kwabena Adjei, NDC- Biakoye, asked whether the Agreement would actually serve the national interest and wondered what would happen to Ghana if at any time it wanted to terminate it.
He said the terms of the Agreement were inconsistent with the principles of NEPAD and the African Union and that it was wrong and illegal to try to coerce the country to ratify it.
Dr Adjei said by signing the agreement, it was opening the country to terrorist attacks and human rights violations as well as the risk of losing donor support adding: "Do we have to go in for one friend in exchange for enemies from Africa and the Arab world because we are poor?"
He said because the country was poor and had opted for the highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) status did not mean it should sign the Agreement, adding that it would be a sell out and an affront to the dignity and respect of the Ghanaian.
Mr John Mahama, NDC- Bole, said the treaty was a subsequent bilateral agreement that sought to undermine the ICC and wondered why some countries could have permanent waivers while others that did not conclude theirs by a certain date were likely to face sanctions by the US.
He said he wondered whether America being a proponent and doyen of democracy in the world, would sanction Ghana because its Parliament had on principle refused to endorse what it saw as unfavourable to the country.
The Majority defended the Agreement saying its objectives were to enter into a bilateral agreement under Article 98 of the Rome Statute that provided safeguard that suspects might not be surrendered to the International Criminal Court (ICC) without the consent of their countries of origin.
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, gave the exposition on the Agreement for its ratification by Parliament and that the ICC was established to try crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and aggression.
He said concerns had been expressed about the powers of the ICC, its structures and jurisdiction over nationals of countries not party to the Rome Statute and that it was in the light of these that certain countries like the US, Russia, China and India had refused to append their signatures to the Rome Treaty.
Nana Akufo-Addo intimated that the United States of America decided on this line of action because it was eager to give its citizens protection against unwarranted and politically motivated prosecution. He said half of the African Union Member Countries had signed similar Agreements with the US and that Ghana would become the 24th country if it signed and ratified it and that it was in the national interest so to do.
Nana Akufo-Addo said none of the member countries of the African Union or the African Parliamentary Union had so far taken a definite stand on the issue and that if Ghana ratified the Agreement it would not be in variance with them.
He said the country's criminal laws applied to both citizens and non-citizens and the signing of the Agreement could not insulate anybody and that the jurisdiction over persons on the soils of Ghana would continue to hold.
Dr Kwame Addo-Kufuor, Minister of Defence, called on members to consider the high respect of the Ghana Armed Forces due to the assistance the US government had offered in raising their status in the international world.
He said there were several agreements in line for the country to benefit from the US if the country ratified the Agreement. Dr Addo-Kufuor said Ghana stood to benefit enormously by ratifying the bilateral Agreement through military assistance by way of the provision of reconnaissance military vessels, aircraft, training programmes and significant US military aid.
Mr Abraham Ossei Aidoo, Deputy Majority Leader, said the cardinal principle for the agreement was to create other forums for settling such issues of trials and not only by the ICC.
He said the Agreement did not in anyway conflict with national interest and that the country was not being bullied to take the decision of ratifying it.
Papa Owusu-Ankomah, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, said the signing and ratification of the Agreement would not in any way be undermining the terms of ICC treaty.
He said as a country "we need the help of so many nations to improve the socio-economic development of the country and its people". The Minister of Justice said the hosting of the ICC in Ghana and the declaration thereof was not in contradiction with the new agreement that Parliament sought to ratify.
Alhaji Malik Al-hassan Yakubu, NPP - Yendi, said the basis of the Agreement was to the mutual advantage of the two countries and so there was the need to look at the terms of the Agreement, critically examine it and give it the practical support it needed.
Mr Felix Owusu-Agyapong, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and leader of the House said the country should be concerned and asked for the reason why the powerful nations failed to join the ICC and that there might have been genuine concerns for their not joining it. When the vote was taken at the end of the debate, the House by 101 votes to 53 voted for the ratification of the Agreement.