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05.04.2006 General News

Gross Human Rights Abuses in Nandom

By Tierkaa Christopher ([email protected])

Extreme provocation and gross abuse of human rights in the form of unwarranted and arbitrary arrests, and aggravated assault, of some citizens of Nandom, by a combined armed Police and Military contingent, with the approval of the Upper-West Regional Police Command, have been underway in Nandom and later Wa, since Thursday March 23, 2006. This story has generated so much interest that upon further investigation, the following facts have emerged:

The Nandom Policemen in question and boys of Gyangbang Yir (the House of Gyangbang) are said to be Pito/alcohol-drinking pals notorious for binge drinking. Witnesses intimately familiar with this group say they often take liberties with each other. On a similar pito binge on Thursday March 23, 2006, in the company of his Police-pal, a Gyangbang Yir boy remarked that a single Nandom Policeman was incapable of overpowering him physically. The Policeman took offence and what started as an acceptable behaviour among pals quickly escalated. The Policeman then summoned his colleagues to help subdue the youngman, who was eventually over-powered and thrown into the Nandom Police cells. Subsequently, the Gyangbang family and relatives went to beg the Police to release the young man or allow them to bail him. The Nandom Police turned down the request. Later that evening a group of young people, indignant and incensed by the attitude of the local Police, began insulting them and throwing stones at the Police Station. In the turmoil that ensued, the Police complained to the Nandom Naa about the conduct of the youth at their office. The Nandom Naa Mr. Imoru Puouure Puobe capitalised on the situation and immediately telephoned the Regional Police Commander, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ankobil, and reported an ominous siege situation in Nandom, requesting armed Police and Military reinforcements immediately.

The Regional Police Commander promptly despatched reinforcements from Wa to Nandom. On arrival, the armed contingent went into operation overzealously, arbitrarily physically assaulting any able-bodied person in sight. The ensuing mayhem created considerable panic, and all the townspeople fled. The Police then conferred with the Chief who provided a list of names purported to be those who were involved in the confrontation with the local Police, although Naa Imoru himself was not physically present at the place the events were unfolding. One can only then conclude that his list was either based on a third party's account or worse still, on a fabricated list of persons with whom Naa Imoru had an axe to grind, and whom he wanted punished by the Police in order to settle his old scores. For instance, names like Cletus Nyure and Ben Kyella who presently have a writ against the Nandom Naa at the Wa Circuit Court were included on the so-called mob list, eventhough neither of the gentlemen were present at the scene. In fact, he went to considerable trouble to make the incident a chieftaincy issue; for example, others like Mr. Koya who was indoors but only came out to verify the source of the confusion, and who is a family member opposed to Imoru's illegal occupation of the Nandom Skin, was immediately picked up and beaten mercilessly by the Police. Several of the suspects fall in this category. In addition, a good Samaritan Mr. Benagr of Danko, who rescued another Gyangbang boy who was severely beaten unconscious by the Police and left on the street, was subsequently arrested and tortured on his return from the Nandom Hospital where he had taken the Gyangbang boy; the 'Good Samaritan's' crime was that he had the nerve to inform the Chief that the Police reports on the situation were untrue, before taking the sick man to the Nandom Hospital.

Early the next morning Friday, March 24, 2006, the Police attacked the homes of the list of alleged culprits given to them by the Nandom Naa and arrested them. Initially four of them were beaten up and taken to Lawra, the District Police Headquarters, where they continued to be brutally physically assaulted and then finally sent to the Wa Regional Police Cells where they received the most brutal beatings and much inhuman treatment, including water-boarding and the most public of humiliations. Later, that evening when relatives and friends of the suspects arrived in Wa to request bail, it was denied by the Police, with the indication that bail may be granted the next day Saturday March 25, 2006. The next day, bail was again denied even though the mandatory 48 hours of Police powers of detention without recourse to due process in a Court of Law had elapsed. It was not until Monday Mach 27, 2006 that the suspects were arraigned before the Wa Circuit Court, presided over by Circuit Judge Mustapha.

The Police requested that the Court remand the suspects in jail for an additional ten days since their investigations on the matter were not complete. The Judge denied the requested on the grounds that ten days was too long, and instead remanded the suspects in jail for an additional 4 days, to re-appear again on March 31, 2006. On March 31, 2006, the Police informed the Court again that the Police investigations were still not complete and requested further remand of the suspects. To this, the Judge obliged, sending the brutalised and sick suspects to remand until April 10, 2006, when he will be available to hear the case. In the mean time the Nandom Naa who concocted the story of ominous siege and forged the list of so-called mobsters for the Police to torture and incarcerate, is going about Nandom boasting that he has caused the arrest and detention of the suspects. The baffling question remains as to how the list was authenticated if by the Police's own account of events published in the Thursday March 30, 2006 edition of the Ghanaian Times, the attacking party was described as a “mob” (see Mob Beats Up Nandom Police by Mathew Ayoo, Wa, Thursday, 30 March 2006)? Clearly, one week after the fact, the Police could not still identify the real culprits and have found it convenient to work with a dubious list conveniently provided by the notoriously dubious and mendacious Nandom Naa.

In addition, by detaining the suspects beyond the stipulated 48 hours of detention allowed prior to formal charges being filed is a violation of the fundamental rights of the suspects. The last time I checked, the term “investigation” did not include assault or maltreatment of any kind of suspects. In a democracy where the Rule of Law is supreme, suspects are simply suspects, innocent until proven guilty. Suspects have rights under the law and the Police are a critical agency in the protection of those rights. However, in this case, they have willfully connived with Naa Imoru to subvert and violate those rights and perpetuate a conduct of disregard for the law, Police waywardness and high-handedness. But then again what do we expect? After all, this is the Upper-West Regional Police we are dealing with here and their track record on these matters speaks for itself; they are quite well known for their predisposition to torture, right before the very noses of their bosses who either condone such abhorrent behaviour or simply lack the will to instil discipline. Many inferences can therefore be made from these acts of deceit, wanton arrests, unlawful detention and human rights abuses:

First, the Police, by conferring with and confiding in the Chief have knowingly colluded with Mr. Imoru and given him the undeserved privilege to punish his enemies by fraudulent means. The Police action further gave Mr. Imoru the opportunity to link an isolated incident to non-existent security threats. The fact that Mr. Imoru called the Police to report the matter should not (and does not) preclude him from guilt. Therefore the Police should have further verified his story before acting. However, by accepting Imoru's story as the absolute truth, the Police have shamelessly abdicated their law enforcement responsibilities, which ought to be carried out in fairness to all parties to a conflict, in favour of a morally corrupt and opportunistic person such as the Nandom Naa is. To make his story credible to the Security Agencies including the Regional Security Committee, Mr. Imoru went to considerable lengths to further link the current unfortunate impasse between the Nandom Police and their local drinking mates to the unresolved Nandom Chieftaincy problem, a matter in which the relevant writs are gathering dust in the Upper West Regional House of Chiefs.

Second, this is not the first time Mr. Imoru has reported untruths to the Police resulting in the arrest of respectable citizens of Nandom. The Upper-West Regional Police, in particular the Regional Police Commander is aware of the unlawful and fraudulent arrest and detention of Rear Admiral Chemogoh Kevin Dzang (aka Naa Gbullu Chiir II), by a combined armed Police and Military foot-slogging riflemen during a Kakube Festival in 2004; an incident which to this day leaves the Upper-West Regional Police in an awkwardly embarrassing situation. During the incident, women were beaten up by the armed contingent and striped half naked in public; some were even thrown into police cells. To this day, a report submitted to the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice is pending unresolved in Wa. The Security services ought to learn by now from these past vicious reports that Mr Imoru should not be trusted; at the very least, any cacophonic reports from this character ought to be fully investigated before decent, peace-loving people are victimised and brutalised by the Security agencies who are supposed to protect all and sundry. Sadly, with every mis-step, the Upper-West Regional Police is increasingly gaining notoriety as grossly inept, misguided and foolish.

Third, unfortunately, the Executive, led by the Regional Minister appear to turn a blind eye to the vicious manipulations of Mr. Imoru thereby giving him the opportunity to act with impunity in punishing his enemies, even if unjustifiably. All citizens of Ghana expect that people who knowingly abuse their positions or their access to powerful positions ought to suffer serious adverse consequences for such conduct. Otherwise, the capacity to deter criminal conduct, such as the Nandom Naa's behaviour is, will continue unchecked and the ordinary man on the street will have no recourse to justice under such a dispensation. The continuous biased support and recognition of Mr. Imoru as the Nandom Naa by the Government despite the Supreme Court ruling on the matter speaks to the wide perception of official collusion in the Nandom dispute and Imoru's abhorrent conduct. By that Ruling, the Nandom Chieftaincy issue is back to the Status Quo Ante, after the repeal of PNDC Law 293 ([Specified Areas] - Prohibition and Abatement of Chieftaincy Proceedings Law), thereby levelling the playing field and making Pretenders to the Nandom Skin equal before the Judicial Committee of the Upper Regional House of Chiefs. However, as if by design, all the writs and petitions on the matter have been left in the cooler, while the Executive continues to collaborate with Mr. Imoru as the Nandom Naa, to the great disadvantage of other Pretenders to the Skin, the Rule of Law and the greater majority of the ordinary men and women of Nandom. By the unlawful detention of Messrs. Cletus Nyure and Ben Kyella, the Police are colluding in the obstruction of justice and have demonstrated their contempt for a duly constituted Court of Law, due to hear a case pending against Mr. Imoru in which Messrs. Nyure and Kyella are key witnesses against him. Is it far-fetched at this point to allege that perhaps the Police are in the pay of Mr. Imoru? If this is correct, then they have further sunk whatever professional qualities the Upper-West Regional Police have left; and by April 10, 2006, when these suspects are scheduled to appear in Court, they would have spent some 18 days in detention without a formal charge.

It remains to be seen what the next course of action by the Police will be, come April 10, 2006. At this point however, the Upper-West Regional Police must expect that their conduct on this matter is being closely monitored. Indeed, information available to this writer indicates that Police higher-ups are equally closely monitoring these events on the quiet through a number of under-cover operatives; a number of leading human rights organizations, advocates and attorneys, speaking on condition of anonymity, are documenting proceedings about the Nandom events in the light of the highly irregular nature of Police conduct in Nandom and their collusion with Mr. Imoru. Hopefully, one fine day, justice to the ordinary men and women in Nandom will be served. Our Elders say “every dog has its day”.