Is it justice politicized or jaundiced justice?
by Kwabena Opong
Charles Antwi, a mentally challenged person was accused of plotting to kill President John Mahama of Ghana at his church in Accra and was summarily sentenced to a 10-year jail against the advice of the investigative bodies. Mr. Antwi’s case, we are wont to believe, is a sequel to an indictment of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, ex-President J. A. Kufuor and ex-Minister of Justice and Attorney General Obed Asamoah among a few others by Sole Commissioner Yaw Apau in his investigative commission on judgment debts. One incidence of injustice is one too much and the case of Charles Antwi v. the Republic is even more frightening.
In the Charles Antwi v. The Republic, Charles Antwi, the defendant was charged with carrying an unlicensed weapon on his person to the Assemblies of God Church where the president and the chief justice of the Republic worship. It is implied, and by his own admission that, Mr. Antwi intended to kill President John Mahama. He was arrested on Sunday, July 26 and by Tuesday, July 28, he had received a verdict of a 10-year jail term. Attempts by the investigative organs of government handling the case to remand the culprit to enable them continue with further inquiry was scuttled by the trial judge, who in addition, changed the accused’s guilty plea to not guilty.
Mr. Antwi’s family and mother have in the meantime said that her son has at one time or the other been receiving psychiatric treatment from some hospitals and that he is mentally challenged. She added that she had consulted local fetishes and herbalists for treatment for Mr. Antwi. She did not hesitate to confirm that her son is crazy.
It is baffling that the trial judge in the Antwi case, Justice Francis Obiri heard the accused before him talk about his intent to kill President John Mahama and take over from him, adding that he wanted to kill Mahama to stop dumsor. His ramblings and his demeanor in the dock did not hide his state of mind at all but Justice Obiri was convinced he had a sane person before him. If the judge was not informed of the accused’s condition, then it would be unkind to accuse the judge of denying Mr. Antwi the due process. If he was made aware but ignored the warning, then it is an obvious case of denial of Mr. Antwi his fundamental human rights.
Issues like this breed conspiracy theories and the general secretary of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) Johnson Asiedu Nketiah was quick to see some butterflies. He accused the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) of complicity in the plot to kill the president but Abayifa Karbo, a leading member of the NPP shot him down saying his party has nothing to gain from killing President Mahama. The issue has since taken a political turn with the ruling government and its communicators making excuses for the judge’s actions while the opposition with some in the legal community is questioning the judge’s action as unfair and devoid of the due process, as the competence of the accused was in clear doubt during his trial.
Compare and contrast the Charles Antwi vs the Republic of Ghana de
bacle to the snippets of information emanating from the Sole Commissioner of the Judgment Debt investigations.
Following a spate of judgment debts paid by the government of Ghana running into several millions, President John Mahama appointed Mr. Justice Yaw Apau, then an Appeals Court judge in 2012 as sole commissioner to investigate the payments. Snippets of the report published in some newspapers show the indictment of some prominent politicians, including the NPP flag bearer Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, former President John Agyekum Kufuor and ex-Attorney General and Minister of Justice Obed Yao Asamoah. These three among several others were accused of causing financial loss to the nation in several millions of dollars and cedis. It is even more disturbing as, according to some observers, Nana Addo’s fate as a politician hangs on the report. And Justice Apau, at the end of his lop-sided investigation was appointed a Supreme Court Judge, jumping ahead of recommended judges by the Council of State.
In the two cases cited here the due process was denied the individuals concerned. Maybe Justice Apau may have his reasons for reaching the decisions he has reached, but he evaded due process, particularly as he chose to invite others and ignore others. It is believed Nana Addo wanted to appear before him to clear his name, but was denied the opportunity. Situations like this spawn suspicions and rumors. For the simple reason of denying someone the due process in a case like this, a judge could put his integrity at stake. The judgment payment to Alfred Woyome was mentioned in the report, according to those who have sighted it, but little was said about his acquittal by the high court regarding the criminal trial. Could it be that Justice Apau has motives other than judicial? Soon after he submitted his report he was promoted to the Supreme Court: a just reward?
Charles Antwi appeared in court and was given the opportunity to speak. Nana Addo et al were not offered that chance to appear before the Sole Commissioner. Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, a legal practitioner was, however, invited to appear before Justice Apau to defend his position in the same case in which Nana Addo was indicted.
The Judiciary is revered for its independence in the tripartite system of government in most democracies. In Ghana as in the United States and Great Britain, the judiciary possesses legislative powers as well and their decisions are very crucial in the legal system. The independence of the judiciary is, however, limited by the executive’s powers of appointment of judges and the parliament’s powers of approval. Some misguided and over-ambitious members of the bench may, however, be inclined do the bidding of the appointing authority for personal gains or for gratitude.
What Ghana needs now is a reliable, strong and independent judiciary. Just a few years ago one could be hauled before a tribunal and be sentenced by a judge who sat behind a curtain. Some 300 Ghanaians are yet to be accounted for and the perpetrators are walking free. There are several Charles Antwis behind bars, some for several years without the due process. They do not have the luxury of legal defense. They need medical attention but cannot access it and they keep rotting in the jails. Sadly, they do not have public opinion behind them.
Ghanaians are waiting to see the full report of the Apau Commission and the government’s response inasmuch as they are anxious to see what would come out of the impending appeal of the Antwi verdict. Public opinion in most cases happen to be right and we hope this time the people’s court would have it right. Justice denied even once is not safe for our nascent democracy.