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Regional News of Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Source: Daily Guide

2 Supreme Court Judges Grilled

Two nominees for appointment as Supreme Court Judges, Justices Anthony Alfred Benneh and Joseph Bawah Akamba, were yesterday grilled by the Appointment Committee of Parliament for hours as they were quizzed on several constitutional matters in the country.

Justice Benin, who was grilled for about two hours by members of the Parliamentary Committee, called for the abolition of death penalty, insisting there was no justification to keep the practice in the country.

Ghana, he stated, had ratified all the UN conventions, calling for the abolition of the death penalty and that it would be in the interest of justice if the practice was abolished for live sentences.

“If a person is given a death sentence and he is executed; and it is later found that he should have been freed, what harm would the nation have caused to that person?” Justice Benin quizzed rhetorically.

Justices Benin and Akamba were nominated by President John Dramani Mahama on the advice of the Judicial Council and in consultation with the Council of State, in accordance with Article 144 (2) of the constitution.

Until their nomination, the two were the most senior judges at the Court of Appeal and if they are approved, the total number of the judges in the highest court land will be increased from 13 to 15.

Justice Benin said the promotion of judges should be based on competence and merit or meritocracy, regardless of how long a judge has been on the bench.

He wished that no judge would be associated with any political party as this would ensure decisions taken by the bench are not viewed with partisan lenses.

On whether there should be upper limit or sealing of judges to Supreme Court, Justice Benin answered in the affirmative but added that it should be possible for all the judges in the highest court of the land to be empowered to have their say on constitutional matters.

He was however reminded that it could be difficult for the Supreme Court to review its decisions with the same number of judges.

However, Justice Benin responded that depending on new evidence presented in such a circumstance, the same number of judges could change their own decision during review.

Asked to proffer suggestions to deal with cases that were pending in court for years without trial, the nominee advocated the establishment of standing committees to review such cases.

Such committees, Justice Benin pointed out, should be able to advice the Chief Justice, the Police or the Attorney-General as the case might be on how to address the problem.

Appearing before the Appointment Committee, Justice Akamba reiterated the stance of his colleague that competence and efficiency should be considered in promoting judges on the bench.

He advocated the abolition of laws prosecuting people who attempted suicide, pointing out that people who attempted to kill themselves out of some frustration should rather be empathized with and not prosecuted.

“Introducing some innovation to deal with such people would be a better option rather than bringing such people to court to be sentenced,” Justice Akamba suggested.

He also called for abolition of witches’ camp in the country, as such practices were dehumanizing and in violation of human rights of women in these camps.

A member of the committee, lawyer Samuel Atta Akyea, had described the nominee as a level-headed judge who had the temperament to listen to all manner of lawyers.

“Some judges are brilliant but they do not have the intellectual temperament to listen to lawyers but I think you are different,” lawyer Atta Akyea pointed out.

Another member of the committee, Ambrose Dery, described Justice Akamba as a very friendly judge who had always discharged his duties diligently.

Congratulating Justice Akamba on his appointment, Haruna Bayirga said the nominee was a role model to the people of the north and that his nomination to the highest court of the land would further inspire the youth from the three regions of the north to achieve high laurels.

Alhaji Abdul-Rashid Pelpuo was full of praise for the nominee for his humility.

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