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Opinions of Thursday, 18 May 2017

Columnist: Andrews Krow

Open letter to the President: Thuggery and vigilantism legitimised?

Mr President,

Naturally we Ghanaians do not like authoritarianism with its "big ideas" and for many of us, to prevent its realisation is a sufficiently powerful war aim. Whether the things for which we stand are right or wrong, we do not like the thought of a country controlled by tyrants and dictators, and are prepared to fight them to "death"

You displayed same conviction years ago and vehemently challenged the various military administrations.

Mr President, you were among the organizers of the ‘Kumepreko’ demonstration in 1995 against the introduction of the VAT system and I remember very well how you strongly attacked the Rawlings regime for allegedly arming thugs to disrupt the march. According to the organisers and corroborated by people who monitored the demonstration, injuries occurred, we were later told by the organisers that killings also occurred. You demanded for proper investigation into the matter to unravel the facts for the perpetrators to be prosecuted.

You were always on BBC attacking the Rawlings government and constantly called on the international community to put pressure on the regime to punish the thugs. Unfortunately, you disappointed your colleagues when you became the Attorney General by not giving that very case the attention you demanded in opposition. This was the answer you gave when journalists sought for your position on the issue

"That is another matter which petitions are being made about. We are going to study them. I myself, believe that this is something, which ought to be reopened because it appears to be a common perception that the full story has not been told. The full story ought to be told."

The point I am establishing here is that you once spoke vehemently against the use of thugs on demonstrators in Ghana and demanded for their prosecution. This became an albatross on the Rawlings administration and the NDC as a party.

When President Mahama took over, he quietly revisited that case through Dr Nyaho Tamakloe. He requested to meet the father of Ahunu (one of the victims of the Kumepreko demonstration). He approached Dr Nyaho Tamakloe to assist him and this was how Dr Nyaho Tamakloe who was one of the organisers said about that move by former President Mahama.

“When President Mahama came to power recently, one time he called and asked me how he could see Ahunu’s father. I went and luckily, I found the father and mother who are alive and came back and told the President that I found them. And in his usual quiet way, he [Mahama] went there to see the family and he asked the old man what the state could do for his departed son. The old man replied that one of the principal streets in Accra be named after his son.”

Mr President, the statement issued by the information ministry in connection with the Attorney General’s decision to drop its case against the eight members of the Delta force who stormed the Kumasi Circuit Court, is unfortunate and disrespectful, it only exposed the internal weakness of your administration, power play, lack of coordination and unassertiveness of leadership. The Attorney General cannot exonerate herself of blame with this weak statement coming from the information ministry. Before I proceed, let me remind you of this statement by one of our renowned legal minds, the late Mr. Justice A. N. E. Amissah.

“The power of the Attorney-General to discontinue a case by the entry of a nolle prosequi or withdrawal is political in nature. No law prescribes the conditions under which it should be exercised or requires that he explains the reasons under which it should be exercised or requires that he explains the reasons for doing so. However, if he does so improperly this might have serious political consequences for the Government of which he is a member or result in his personal fall from office…. the entry of a nolle prosequi in the famous Campbell case which had political overtones led to the fall of the first Labour Government in 1924…”

Section 54 of Ghana's Criminal Procedure Code ,1960 (Act 30) gives the Attorney General discretion to entre a nolle prosequi in the course of criminal trials. And it is stated emphatically that, that discretionary power is not subjected to judicial review. I don't think this statement issued to cover the shame the government has brought onto itself, is convincing enough rather, it has aggravated the situation and I am confident that soon, the discerning minds in the country will start asking questions. The regional representative of the Attorney General will never take a unilateral decision on such a high profile case. Decision on a case which received both local and international condemnation with huge political links, will surely involve the big guns in the administration.

Mr President from my layman's understanding of the law, I know that nolle prosequi declaration may be made where the Attorney General after exploring all the legal angles is unable come to the conclusion that its charges cannot be proved due to weak evidence to carry the burden of proof, because the evidence is fatally flawed in light of the claims brought or where the prosecutor doubts the guiltiness of the accused.

In this particular case, there are pictorial evidence to support the AG, people who were at the court that particular day saw what transpired inside the courtroom, the judge who was made to run for cover is around to confirm their guilt or otherwise. The hoodlums spoke to the media before and after their arrest and we heard various statements coming from top executives of your party supporting that act of impunity. The first 13 persons arrested were coolly allowed to go home after they've been made to pay some coins and executives of your party declared their support for these hoodlums and swore before Ghanaians they were going to ensure that the accused persons go home untouched and true to their words, the Attorney General has executed exactly what they assured the thugs and the nation.

Mr President, entry of a nolle prosequi is not an acquittal meaning the principle of double jeopardy therefore does not apply. If the statement issued by the information ministry truly represents the sincerest position of your administration, then we expect the Attorney General to re- indict the defendants on the same charge.

Mr President, the act of contempt alone could have landed the hoodlums in prison custody and you are aware that in jurisdictions where laws are allowed to operate effectively, a man who wilfully keep his hat on in court or smoke could be charged with contempt of court how much more hoodlums forcing a lady judge to run away from her court room without her shoes.