Following the pronouncements by ruling NDC party chairman Dr. Kwabena Adjei that he'll 'cleanse' the judiciary in order to purge it from corruption, it has been suggested his statement amounts to threat on the lives of judges on the bench. I publish below an unedited reaction from lawyers association.
PRESS STATEMENT BY THE ASSOCIATION OF MAGISTRATES AND JUDGES OF GHANA ON RECENT ATTACKS ON THE BENCH
The Association of Magistrates and Judges (AMJG) has noted with grave concern, the recent press statement of the ruling National Democratic Congress which was delivered by its National Chairman, Dr. Kwabena Adjei in response to a ruling of the High Court that discharged Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobbey and Mr. Kwadwo Mpiani, the two accused persons in the Ghana @ 50 trial.
It has become pertinent for us to explain how the Judiciary goes about its work in response to the very issues raised at the Press Conference organized by the NDC on 17th August, 2010.
Prior to the 2008 Elections, election matters had delayed for almost four years, a typical example is the Isaac Amoo and Rebecca Adotey case which started in 1996 to 2000. The case was finally determined after the tenure of that Parliament had expired.
In order not to repeat any such occurrence the Electoral Commission in conjunction with the Judicial Training Institute (JTI) organized workshops to update the knowledge of Judges on current Laws for the timely disposal of Election related disputes.
The Judges were also introduced to the new law in CI 47 by which the Chief Justice could assign matters for quick disposal during public holidays and any other days previously described as ‘non-days’. By invoking those existing provisions, Her Ladyship the Chief Justice was invoking a constitutional instrument which was approved by Parliament. So she was not doing anything untoward, unconstitutional or improper.
As regards the empanelling of the Supreme and Appeal Courts to hear cases that are brought before them, this is done by the Hon. Chief Justice.
The High Courts are in divisions like the Fast Track Court and the Specialized Courts. The Specialized Courts are the Land, Labour, Industrial, Human Rights and Financial Courts. So a case is heard depending on where one files a suit. These are assigned by the Registrars and in the instance of the Commercial Courts and Specialized Courts, cases are assigned by the Administrator.
Under the Constitutional dispensation, the Chief Justice is the first Judge of each court and therefore has overall responsibility for assigning or empanelling.
It is not true that the empanelling of Judges is done to suit a particular person, group of people or political parties.
Again, the Chief Justice has power to assign an Appeal Court Judge to act as an additional High Court Judge if the High Court Judges have too many cases on their hands and for any other good reasons. This is aimed at ensuring a speedy and expeditious disposal of cases.
These powers are derived from statute and unless anybody can prove any impropriety, it lies within the powers of the Chief Justice to utilize this power.
Justice is dispensed according to law and that is what the court does to the best of its ability and as prescribed by the various oaths.
In the recent High Court Ruling in the case involving Wereko Brobbey and Kwadwo Mpaini, Justice Marful-Sau gave an interpretation from his understanding of the law and it is refreshing that the Attorney General’s Department has stated that it is preparing to challenge that interpretation. Such a step if embarked upon is in consonance with the spirit of the Constitution which provides for appeals.
Certainly, there are principles guiding the application of the laws but the Judicial Oath is the underlining factor that guides the dispensation of Justice by all members of the Bench. There is also the Black Letter Law, precedence as well as any other relevant matters that also guide the determination of issues.
It is worthy to note that the Judiciary does not initiate the trial of accused persons. It is the Attorney-General who does. A lawyer is just as good as his brief and if the brief is not good it shows in its outcome. However, a well prepared brief that is also well presented plus the proper deployment of quality witnesses would show that investigations had been properly conducted. It must be stated in the instant case, that the accused persons have only been discharged on procedural grounds and so the options are open.
It is important to understand the basis within which the criminal justice system works in all Common Law Countries including Ghana which puts a much bigger burden on the State (with all its machinery behind it) than on an accused person. This is based on the principle that it is better for 99 criminals to go away scot free than for one innocent person to be wrongfully convicted.
It must be emphasized that the courts do not see cases in party colours. For any criminal prosecution to succeed, the State must successfully discharge its burden of proof in order to secure a conviction.
The Judiciary is undertaking quite a number of in-house reforms aimed at improving service delivery, building the capacity of various staff levels and also improving the infrastructure under which we perform. Codes of Conduct for the Bench and staff have just been adopted. The measures cut across, including number of Judgments being delivered timeously; staff training to improve upon judges’ understanding and appreciation of the law both old statutes or even new ones are being vigorously pursued.
If anybody outside is proferring any mode of improving upon our service delivery, one could channel it through our Client Service Center or the Secretariat of the Chief Justice.
It is unfortunate for a perception of bias in any particular direction to be attributed to the Bench when there are several dimensions to the success of a case. Judges by their oaths have a duty to uphold and sustain the democracy in our country more so when the stability and prosperity of our nation lies in the confidence the citizens, investors and all other stakeholders place in our justice system.
Reform has been ongoing for improved content and delivery of service by both Judges and staff. The public, no doubt have a role to play by providing concrete information of any malfeasance but it must be stated in no uncertain terms that the utterance at the press conference that the NDC as a party would cleanse the Judiciary is most unfortunate in the light of all the strenuous efforts being put into this house cleaning effort championed by the Judicial Council, the Hon. Chief Justice and the various committees in place to ensure accountability at various levels. It is also unfortunate because it smacks of a stab at the independence of the Judiciary and its ability to work above itself to ensure the continued confidence of the Ghanaian people in their justice system-a system which is the hope for the future of our citizenry and democracy.
We pray and hope that we would not have cause to revisit such sentiments again. We want to assure the nation that we do not have NDC, NPP, PNC, CPP, GCPP or any Political Parties on the Bench. What we have is a Ghanaian Bench whose unalloyed allegiance is to Mother Ghana no matter which party is the government of the day. In fact it is against the rules of ethics of the Judiciary for any member of the Bench or staff to be a member of any political party or supporter of an independent candidate.
We of the Association of Magistrates and Judges wish to affirm our undivided loyalty to our Judicial Oaths to dispense justice to all manner of persons without fear or favor, ill-will or affection, race, color or creed.
We refuse to be party to any attempt to divide our ranks in this noble institution that gives hope for our dear country. Politicians will come and go but this time tested institution will remain the bastion of hope for the future of our nation. If history is a lesson to anybody, such utterances as ‘cleansing the Judiciary’ or ‘there are several ways to kill a cat’ should not come from the party that begat the Government of the day which aspires to make this nation a better Ghana. The remark about Christ’s inability to salvage the perceived bias by Judges is rather insensitive and unfortunate and ought not to come from the Honourable Chairman.
Judges are as much Ghanaians as anybody else; so if there are any problems regarding any member of the Bench or the Service these could be addressed through the appropriate channels and not to play to the gallery.
Ghana has a lot to learn from neighbouring countries such as Cote d’voire, Liberia and Sierra Leone and even Rwanda. Thus there is the need for all to be circumspect and discreet in their public utterances.
The Judiciary continues to look up to the good people of Ghana for the confidence reposed in us for which we vouch to do justice to every citizen without fear or favor and this is our assurance. We also pledge our unflinching support to the Hon. Chief Justice of Ghana and the Judicial Council in their effort to build a Judiciary of excellent repute.
JUSTICE JOSEPH B. AKAMBA JUSTICE ELIZABETH ANKUMAH
(PRESIDENT, AMJG) (SECRETARY, AMJG)