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Opinions of Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Columnist: Ayeboafo, Yaw Awuah Boadu

Arbitrary arrest-A sordid tool of the law professor

Ghana’s fourth Republican constitution is under abrasive unprecedented abuse by her third president. Unpardonably, this president under whose watch the fundamental right of the Ghanaian is under siege with arbitrary arrest, detention, selective application of the doubles as a lawyer or a law lecturer.
There is countless number of cases where individuals have suffered arbitrary arrest with their cases virtually discontinued having been bailed after 48 hours in police cells. The level of arbitrary arrest under the Mills’ administration is worrying, especially as it is increasingly being used as a tool against dissent and political opponents.
The administration’s abuse of the power of arrest seems on the increase as we approach election. I believe the administration understands it is the only means to cast a shadow over its abysmal performance in the light of her gargantuan promises while it was in opposition.
It’s laughable the NDC has decided to go this way. Indeed, what’s even mind boggling or stunning is the kind of charges they prefer against some of their victims. Do you recall the arrests of Nana Adakwa, John Kuma, Owusu Bempa, Hon O.B Amoah, Ofori Amanfo (Tain NPP Parliamentary candidate), Yaw Buabeng Asamoah and many others? Characteristically, they’re all people with dissenting views from the president and the NDC.
The recent absurdity is the arrest, detention and charge preferred against Hon Agyapong. Isn’t bizarre for a person to be charged with the highest forms of crime in the history of mankind merely for an expression of an ‘intemperate’ opinion?
Indeed, the absurdity in the charges preferred against the MP given the circumstance should is aptly compared by president Kufuor as “using a sledge hammer to kill a fly”. Let all Ghanaians know the NDC is at the end of the road with limited options. It beholds on us to tactically manage it so that they do not take the suicidal option. The Mills’ administration is frustrated and prepared to go any extent to secure a re-election in light of its abysmal performance no matter how unpopular and unimaginable it remains.
How could one be charged with treason, terrorism and genocide for expressing an opinion whether popular or otherwise? Indeed, such charges should be restrictively used not to dilute their seriousness.
In many jurisdictions it is narrowly defined. Article 3(3) of the Fourth Republican Constitution states, Any person who (a) by himself or in concert with others by any violent or other unlawful means, suspends or overthrows or abrogates this Constitution or any part of it, or attempts to do any such act; or (b) aids and abets in any manner any person referred to in paragraph (a) of this clause.
In the US it’s also clearly defined by Article III, Section 3 of their Constitution “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.” It seems from the above that the framers of our constitution and others do not intend a broader use of treason charge as a tool to prevent political dissent, opinion or protected free speech. It’s specifically meant to deal with serious acts of subversion.
The use of treason under the circumstance shows a government under fear and reminiscence a military dictatorship. President Mills and his NDC should remember that we have come too far as a Nation from the dark days of abuse and culture of silence. Let president Mills understands that the resolve and the commitment of the Ghanaian to the values of democratic freedom is unsurpassed. The teaming number of people who thronged the police headquarters, BNI and court to show support to the besieged MP was not necessarily condoning his effusions rather most were there to tell the Mills administration that they cherish free speech and it cannot usurp their rights.
Ghanaians should commend the judiciary for remaining independent in the face of increasing political interference and threats-to ‘cleanse’ it in the words of Kwebena Adjei- to dispense justice without fear or favour in true commitment to their oath of office.

I believe it’s about time we took serious stance against arbitrary arrest of the citizenry by the police which is masterminded by the Mills’ administration.

Yaw Awuah Boadu Ayeboafo, Tepa-Ashanti