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Opinions of Saturday, 30 June 2018

Columnist: Kwaku Badu

The dismissal of the Electoral Commissioners: Ghana will move on

Charlotte Osei, EC Chairperson Charlotte Osei, EC Chairperson

The apparent hypocrisy and the unpatriotic sentiments being expressed by some Ghanaians in relation to the removal of the three Electoral Commissioners must be censured in no uncertain terms.

No true patriot, so to speak, would ever support irrevocable lawlessness. In that regard, some of us will rightly upbraid the loose talkers who are disgustingly proclaiming doom on the nation following the announcement of the removal of the Chair Person of the EC and her two deputies on Thursday 28th June 2018 by His Excellency President Akufo-Addo.

To be quite honest, the revoltingly ugly remarks bring nothing but sad memories to some of us. Indeed, some of us were old and fortunate enough to have witnessed the lawlessness which took place during the P/NDC administrations over a period of three decades (1970-1990s), and hence cannot accept any ridiculous pronouncements from members of such tradition.

If you may recall, somewhere in 2014, Ex-President Mahama duly forwarded Mr Richard Nyamah and his partners previous petition issued against the then chairperson of the CHRAJ, Mrs Lauretta Vivian Lamptey to the Chief Justice to ascertain an unobjectionable constitutional violation.

The Chief Justice subsequently established a prima facie constitutional violation, and, Mrs Lamptey was impeached accordingly.

So, it is not something out of the ordinary for His Excellency President Akufo-Addo to remove the three Electoral Commissioners from office.

The all-important question however is: why didn’t the same NDC worrywarts object to Mrs Lamptey’s impeachment back then?

Apparently, the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, to be precise, Article 146 provides interesting steps or measures that need to be taken in order to impeach a Justice of the Superior Court or a Chairman of the Regional Tribunal.

“(3) If the President receives a petition for the removal of Justice of a Superior Court other than the Chief Justice or for the removal of the Chairman of a Regional Tribunal, he shall refer the petition to the Chief Justice, who shall determine whether there is a prima facie case.

Thus, it was manifestly clear that President Akufo-Addo acted within the law when he referred the separate petitions brought against Charlotte Osei and her two deputies to the Chief Justice to determine whether there was a prima facie case.

In that instance, President Akufo-Addo could not have erred by referring the petition brought against the Electoral Commissioners to the Chief Justice for determination of a prima facie case.

The crucial question however is: if for argument sake, President Akufo-Addo had ignored and withheld the petitions issued against the Electoral Commissioners, wouldn’t he then had violated the Constitution of Ghana?

Clearly, the petitions went through due process, thus some of us cannot fathom how and why any group of people can carelessly threaten the peace of the country because of their parochial interests.

It is, therefore, worth stating that although the right to freedom of opinion and expression stretches to queer and unpopular ideas and statements which “shock, offend or disturb”, a number of human rights treaties, conventions and declarations, including the ICCPR and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights obligate states to prohibit all forms of ‘loose talks’ that can bring doom to the nation.

Apparently, the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the appropriate permitted abridgements are detailed in international law -Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

It must, however, be noted that free speech does not give the right to individuals to say or write whatever they want, whenever they like, without permitted abridgement.

As a matter of fact, freedoms are restricted in the public interest on grounds of national security, to preserve public order, to protect public health, to maintain moral standards, to secure due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others or to meet the just requirements of the general welfare of a democratic society.

Indeed, freedom of opinion and expression is not absolute and must of necessity be subject to limitations on the above lines. And more so the right of free speech and expression does not extend to sedition, slander, defamation and obscenity.

We must not and cannot lose sight of the fact that most wars, crimes and genocides which were perpetrated against humanity were arguably expedited through the use of propaganda aimed at securing popular support for illegal and violent action.

This can be witnessed continued in the past and in the modern era. For we can attest to the Nazi propaganda which preceded the Holocaust, the Radio and Television hate speech which preceded the Rwandan Genocide and al-Qaeda hate speech which preceded the attacks on ‘World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001.

In hindsight, we can infer that propaganda could spell doom for a nation. So it is necessary and proper for experienced politicians to stay away from any opprobrious pronouncements that can incite violence.

Strictly speaking, freedom of opinion and expression is not an absolute right in national and international jurisprudence. In fact, this right, like others, may be restricted to protect and balance other rights and interests. However, it is the complexion and the degree of these restrictions that is often contended in extant human rights and security jurisprudence.

Actually, the two known restrictions on the right to freedom of expression are: The prohibition of advocacy of any national, racial or religious hatred and the prohibition of propaganda.

Nevertheless, the prohibition of propaganda is not innately contradictory to the right to freedom of expression.

The right holder, however, has to be cognisant of the duty and obligations which are encapsulated in the international human rights instruments.

Interestingly, however, while propaganda for genocide is codified as an international crime, the propaganda for the incitement to aggressive war is not.

Nevertheless, incitement to commit an illegal act is in itself illegal under international law.

Furthermore, incitement, instigation, abetment and solicitation are all common to various criminal codes world-wide.

These are generally considered "inchoate offense[s]" or "a step toward[s] the commission of another crime, the step itself being serious enough to merit punishment”.

In the English common law for instance, there are three general inchoate offenses: 1) attempt; 2) conspiracy; and 3) incitement.

“ Incitement conveys a "general label to cover any use of words or other device by which a person is requested, urged, advised, and counselled, tempted, commanded, or otherwise enticed to commit a crime."

To the unpatriotic loose talkers: even though you have inalienable rights as human beings to seek, receive and convey information and ideas of all kinds , such rights are subject to permitted abridgement, so stop misusing such inherent rights.

Ghana cannot and won’t burn! Long live Ghana!

K. Badu, UK.