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Opinions of Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Columnist: Antwi, William

Tsatsu Tsikata: The Supreme Court To The Rescue!!!

Recognizing the centrality and fundamental nature of the IFC immunity issue as it affects conviction of Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, our Supreme Court has set down the 16th of this month to deliver its long awaited ruling in that matter. All Ghanaians who truly want our democracy to succeed and for that matter, genuinely believe that our justices can and should savage whatever is left of the integrity of our judiciary must mark that important date on their calendars. Our learned justices can rebuild the confidence and trust people have lost in our courts by delivering a never-to-forget ruling which will stand the test of time: We are here talking about a memorable decision enmeshed in law taking into direct consideration the special facts in the case as they relate to the IFC immunity issue. Our learned justices should be mindful of their oaths of office and the fact that they are Ghanaians of great intellect, high learning, integrity and fortitude: They are by the very nature of their work, supposed to be above partisan politics and cronyism. They are no politicians.

For the removal of any doubt, let us break down the special facts for our own understanding:

1. It is undisputed that Justice Abban, without coercion, but out of her sense of justice, fair play and truth, ruled on record that she was going to stay proceedings in the trial of Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata to enable the defense to pursue an appeal against her own ruling on the IFC immunity issue. This was in recognition of the fact the Justice Abban herself admitted the crucial and scale-tilting importance of that issue.

2. That decision on record effectively adjourned proceedings in the substantive criminal matter until such a time that the superior courts had competently dealt with that IFC immunity issue. It should be understood that Justice Abban’s momentous decision permanently disabled her from rendering judgment in the case until the Appellate Courts had fully dealt with that crucial issue which could turn the scale of justice one way or the other.

3. Strangely enough, on June 18, 2008 and against her earlier ruling, Justice Abban rendered judgment in the substantive criminal matter without awaiting the Supreme Court’s ruling on the IFC immunity issue. This was against the backdrop of Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata’s justifiably vehement protestation and in the absence of his legal counsel who was out of the country upon well-stated grounds which grounds were fully communicated to Justice Abban.

4. Justice Abban’s reason for rendering judgment on June 18, 2008 was that there was no order from the Supreme Court to stay proceedings, conveniently forgetting that she, herself, had ruled earlier on to await the Supreme Court’s ruling on the IFC immunity issue.

AND

5. In overturning her own ruling, Justice Abban indicated that the case had been hanging around her neck like an albatross and that whether the accused person liked it or not she was going to render judgment and that the accused was at liberty to rush to the press to prosecute his protestation.

With these undisputed facts staring the Supreme Court in the face, we think our Justices are enamored to deal competently and forthrightly not only with the IFC immunity issue but all matters arising therefrom: And such legal matters should include, but not limited to the following:

1. Whether Justice Abban was legally right in proceeding with the substantive case against her own express ruling on record.

2. And, importantly, whether Justice Abban should have given prior notice to the defense that she was going to overrule herself knowing that such a ruling was dramatically and adversely going to affect the legal fortunes of the accused.

3. Whether Justice Abban slighted our Supreme Court in her rush to judgment despite having clear judicial notice of the fact that the Supreme Court was just one week away from handing down its ruling in the IFC matter: This is a particularly important issue that our Supreme Court must fully explore to establish whether Justice Abban breached any procedural rules.

4. Whether Justice Abban in overruling herself in the absence of defense counsel - vis-a-vis the stay of proceedings to await the Supreme Court’s ruling in the IFC immunity issue - flagrantly violated the accused person’s constitutional right of legal representation in any procedural and/or substantive matter.

AND

5. Whether Justice Abban in so doing, brought the administration of criminal justice into disrepute and contempt.

These important issues do not capture in full the various legal snafus in the trial and conviction of Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata. Rather, their resolution by the Supreme Court will surely throw light on an equally important aspect in any criminal trial - procedural rules. For example, should a judge rush to give judgment in a particular case knowing perfectly well that a material issue is pending before an appellate court? And, should that appellate court in all its supreme wisdom just ignore the conduct of such a judge in rendering its ruling in the matter before it?

It is not too much to say that one of the most viable ways the Supreme Court can reassert itself and bring some measure of integrity and judicial decorum in the adjudication of cases is by pointing out procedural missteps and conduct of courts below. Absent that, the Supreme Court would be doing grave harm not only to the image and integrity of the judiciary but, also, to the very foundation of our already fragile democracy. It is thus the responsibility of the Supreme Court in its supervisory role to rein in abhorrent procedures and conduct that seek to bring the administration of justice into disrepute, ridicule and contempt.

The whole world is watching and our Supreme Court should not disappoint us. Our justices should not squander this great opportunity of giving true meaning to their oaths of office which emphatically stress on the fact that they are going to faithfully discharge the functions of their offices without "fear or favour, affection or ill-will" and that they will at all times "uphold, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Ghana".

And, of course, the laws of Ghana include standing up for an innocent man unjustly convicted!

God save us all.

We will surely return.

WILLIAM ANTWI (BAFO) A.K.A. OYOO BUSANGA.

NEW YORK.

NB: FOR A COMPLETE COVERAGE OF THE SUBSTANTIVE IFC IMMUNITY ISSUE, WE ARE HUMBLY ADVISING READERS TO VISIT THE FREETSATSU WEBSITE TO READ KWAME MFODWO’S COMPREHENSIVE, EDUCATIVE AND INSTRUCTIVE ANALYSIS. THIS INCISIVE ARTICLE IS ALSO PUBLISHED IN ITS ENTIRETY IN THE VOL 2 NO 12 OF THE NEW LEGON OBSERVER OF AUGUST 21, 2008 AT PAGE 14.