Security and constitutional experts at a forum on instant justice and national security in Accra have attributed the growing trend of mob justice in the country to the increasing lack of trust in the nation's justice system in dealing with suspected armed robbers and serial killers.
They also identified impatience on the part of many Ghanaians to wait for the law to take its course as one of the causes of instant justice in the country.
The Minister of National Security, Mr Francis Poku, the Minister of the Interior, Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Patrick Acheampong, the Chief Justice-designate, Mrs Justice Georgina Wood, and a criminologist and legal practitioner, Prof. Ken A. Attafuah, said lynching suspected criminals could affect national security and hinder the government's efforts at entrenching democracy and the rule of law.
They, therefore, reiterated the need for the security agencies, the Judiciary, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), civil society organisations and traditional and religious leaders to collaborate to educate the public on the country's criminal procedures and the rights of suspected criminals.
Organised by the Ministries of the Interior and National Security and attended by security officers, members of the Judiciary, human rights activists and representatives of civil society organisations, the forum was to find an antidote to the increasing incidence of lynching suspected criminals in the country in recent times.
Mr Poku said the government and the security agencies had been concerned about the “rising wave” of instant justice in the country.
“As the nation takes measures to reduce crime, we must not overreact by taking the law into our hands by assuming that it does not work fast,” he advised.
Mr Poku said Ghana had been commended globally as a democratic state which practised the rule of law, while the government was equipping the police and other security agencies to operate more effectively.
He said the image of the country and the efforts at equipping the police would be undermined if steps were not taken to deal with mob action.
Mr Kan-Dapaah, in a speech read on his behalf, said the 1992 Constitution of Ghana guaranteed that the dignity of all persons should be inviolable and that no person should, whether or not he was arrested, restricted or detained, be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or any other condition that detracted or was likely to detract from his dignity and worth as a human being.
He talked about the fact that a person charged with a criminal offence should be presumed to be innocent until he was proved or had pleaded guilty adding that the right to fair trial was also guaranteed by the constitution.
“These provisions must, as constitutional requirements, be upheld and respected by all natural and legal persons in Ghana and shall be enforceable by the courts,” he stressed.
Prof. Attafuah noted that the perceived corruption in the Judiciary and the participation or complicity of the police in instant justice encouraged the public to continue to lynch suspected criminals.
He said the frequent instant justice in the country reflected pervasive lawlessness and impatience on the part of many Ghanaians to allow the legal procedures to be used in dealing with suspected criminals.
Prof. Attafuah, who spoke on, “The Challenge of Instant (Mob) Justice”, said victims of mob justice had no courageous advocates, as they feared that they might be perceived to be condoning criminality.
He, therefore, called for an intensive educational campaign to sensitise the public to the provisions of the Criminal Code and the need to respect the rights of suspected criminals.
Mr Acheampong, in a speech read on his behalf, said the police had taken steps to educate the public on the menace of mob justice.
He said the police would interact with students, religious bodies and all sections of the public to discuss the issue of instant justice, with the view to discouraging the public from engaging in the act.
Mrs Justice Wood, who chaired the event, said it was evident that mob justice was an indictment on the whole Ghanaian society and called for collaborative efforts to curb the phenomenon, cautining that “if we allow it to grow, it will have repercussions on national security”.
Story by Musah Yahaya Jafaru