The former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, has taken a swipe at the African Commission on Human and People's Rights for being bias in its ruling on his complaint of unfair trial for causing financial loss to the state.
According to him, after he had sent his complaint to the commission in April 2006, he never received any acknowledgement whatsoever but only read the decision of the commission on the matter from the Daily Graphic, apparently after the Republic had raised a preliminary objection.
“I have never received an acknowledgement of receipt nor have I been notified of any further steps in respect of the matter,” he said in a reaction he sent to the commission on January 26, 2007.
He expressed surprise at reading the commission's decision in respect of his complaint.
However, according to the commission, in its decision, Mr Tsikata's complaint was acknowledged by a letter ACHPR/LP/COM/322/2006/RE of May 2, 2006, providing the references of the complaint and in which he was informed of the scheduled consideration of the matter at the commission's 38th Ordinary Session to be held in May that year in Banjul.
Furthermore, on June 1, 2006, the commission said it informed the parties of that decision and asked them to provide it with more information on the admissibility of the complaint, in accordance with Article 56 of the African Charter.
It also requested the parties to send their written observations to the secretariat within three months after notification of the decision and on August 31, 2006 and September 5, 2006, the secretariat received the submissions of the Republic of Ghana by fax and by mail respectively.
Mr Tsikata said he had never been aware that the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice had raised a preliminary objection, nor that there would be consideration of his complaint at a meeting at which the Attorney-General and his team would be present.
The story in the Daily Graphic actually said the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Joe Ghartey, assisted by Marina Atuobi, Nana Serwah Acheampong, both State Attorneys, and Nicholas Fredua Kwarteng, an Assistant State Attorney, also made a submission in reply to the complaint, which suggested that they were not present when the decision was taken at the commission's 40th Ordinary Session in Banjul, The Gambia.
Mr Tsikata said it had been his intention to send a supplement to his complaint of April 23, 2006 which would certainly have addressed what appeared to have been a preliminary objection raised by the Attorney-General and made it clear that the objection was without merit.
The former GNPC boss asked the commission to furnish him with a copy of the decision, as well as a copy of the preliminary objection raised by the Attorney-General.
The commission turned down Mr Tsikata's complaint and described it as “inadmissible for non-exhaustion of local remedies”.
It said although the complaint presented a prima facie case of a series of violations of the African Charter, a close look at the file and the submissions indicated that Tsikata was yet to exhaust all the local remedies available to him.
In the light of the submissions, the commission noted that Tsikata's allegations were in respect of an ongoing/unconcluded trial and that information provided by him even stated that the case was still pending before the courts of Ghana.
“Should the ongoing trial end against the complainant's favour, he has further rights of appeal to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Ghana, in accordance with articles 137 and 131 of the Constitution of Ghana,” the commission noted.
The former GNPC boss had a brush with the law when, in 2002, the state charged him with three counts of wilfully causing financial loss of about ¢2.3 billion to the state through a loan he, on behalf of the GNPC, guaranteed for Valley Farms and another count of misapplying ¢20 million in public property.
Valley Farms contracted the loan from Caisse Francaise de Developement in 1991 but defaulted in the payment and the GNPC, which acted as the guarantor, was compelled to pay it in 1996.
Tsikata has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is on self-recognisance bail.
He complained to the commission that the charge on which he was being tried constituted a violation of the right against non-retroactive criminalisation under Article 7 (2) of the African Charter and several provisions of the Constitution of Ghana.
He argued that he was being tried for an act which did not constitute a legally punishable offence at the time that it was done.
The commission, on April 27, 2006, received Tsikata's 10-page complaint of 36 paragraphs in which he chronicled when he was first arraigned before the circuit court in October 2001, his challenge of the constitutionality of the Fast Track Court and the appointment of a Supreme Court judge purposely to review his case, up to the current stage of the case.
He stated that the manifest determination of the government to ensure, without any reference to the facts and legal issues, that incarceration was the only possible outcome of the criminal proceedings against him unjustly endangered his liberty.
Consequently, he sought the intervention of the commission and urged it to invoke Rule 111 of its Rules of Procedure on provisional measures and request the Republic of Ghana not to proceed further with his trial until his case had been heard by the commission.
The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Ghartey, assisted by Marina Atuobi, Nana Serwah Acheampong, both State Attorneys, and Nicholas Fredua Kwarteng, an Assistant State Attorney, also made a submission in reply to the complaint.
He stated that the guidelines for the submission of such cases provided that each communication should particularly indicate that local remedies had been exhausted and observed that Tsikata failed to provide any evidence of the domestic legal remedies pursued.
The Attorney-General further argued that Tsikata failed to meet the requirement of Article 56 (5) of the African Charter, since he could not show that the procedure in the High Court had been protracted or unduly delayed.
“If, indeed, any delay has been occasioned, it would be due to the complainant's own repeated request for adjournments and interlocutory appeals,” he said.
Story By Stephen Sah