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CHRI condemns instant justice
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Press Releases of Thursday, 7 September 2006

Source: CHRI

CHRI condemns instant justice

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative strongly condemns the resurgence in so-called instant ‘justice’ seen recently in Accra and other areas. Over the past few weeks there has been an alarming increase in people taking justice into their own hands. It was reported on the 23rd of August that a thief in Adabraka, was cut to death with his own cutlass when caught stealing a mobile phone. On the 28th August two men who stole ¢5m were stripped naked and beaten with blocks, sticks and metal rods. That same day a 24 year old robber was flogged to death with an iron rod at Pedu, Cape Coast.

Chapter 5 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana concerns fundamental human rights and freedoms. It states that all ‘natural and legal persons in Ghana’ have to respect and uphold these rights which are directly enforceable by the courts as provided for in the constitution. This includes the protection of right to life which states “No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally except in the exercise of the execution of a sentence of a court…under the laws of Ghana”; respect for human dignity as no person shall be subjected to “Torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”; and the right to a fair trial so that any “Person charged with a criminal offence shall be given a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court.”
Whilst it may be tempting to want to act immediately, especially if caught red-handed, those accused of crimes must be left to the hands of the legal authorities. Instant ‘justice’ is not justice at all as it shows disregard for society, each other, the Rule of Law, the criminal justice system and the Constitution. Actual justice means that an individual must have the right to a fair trial, due process, and a chance to explain their actions or defend themselves.
The legal system can be very frustrating and time consuming, but it must be for the courts to determine what happened, and the appropriate punishment - if he is found guilty. It is far too easy for an innocent man to be wrongly accused, or mistaken for someone else, by yelling “Thief!” in the street, which could result in the innocent man being beaten to death.
A culture of instant justice has serious implications for the community at large, through the decay of the moral fibre of society and the undermining of its values. Our democracy is founded on individual citizen’s rights and equality; this means certain individual rights such as pursing justice personally must be handed over to a managed authority. If the law courts are not allowed to prosecute individuals in a way which protects these rights and the rights of the victim, the whole idea of democracy is dangerously undermined.
Two wrongs do not make a right. Instant ‘justice’ will never solve the problem of crime; it simply creates a second and far greater wrong.

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