The Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) is deeply disappointed with the conclusion to the seven-month long case involving the thirteen members of the New Patriotic Party (NPP)-affiliated political vigilante group, the Delta Force. On Thursday, October 19 2017, the Asokwa Circuit Court in Kumasi in the Ashanti region imposed a fine of GH¢ 1,800 on each of the accused, or in default, serve a 12-month jail term, after they pleaded guilty to a substituted misdemeanor charge of “Conspiracy to Commit a Crime by Rioting”.
Ghanaians will recall that in March of this year, members of the Delta Force, displeased with the appointment of the Ashanti Region Security Coordinator, Mr. George Adjei, forcibly entered his office and physically assaulted him. A video of the incident was widely circulated on social media. The police arrested twenty suspects and arraigned them before the Kumasi Circuit Court but only thirteen showed up. In addition, the President, Inspector General of Police and Interior Minister assured Ghanaians that such impunity and lawlessness would not be allowed under their watch. The case against the suspects was aggravated by the brazen show of wanton disregard for law and order on the day of their Court appearance when members of the Delta Forces stormed the Court, verbally assaulted the presiding Judge and forcibly freed the suspects – in the full glare of state security officials. Subsequently, only token fines were awarded against the freed suspects; another eight suspects who were involved in the violence at the Court were discharged for lack of evidence.
While CDD-Ghana acknowledges that the process leading to the verdict followed the rule of law, it is also saddened by the leniency of the judgment. Considering that activities of political party vigilante groups are still rife, this verdict represents a setback in efforts to promote decency in politics. What is more disturbing with this case is the
continuous failure of institutions in the criminal justice system to professionally discharge their constitutional duty in order to preserve the integrity of the state and uphold the standards of what is right and wrong in our society. For instance, with all the intelligence they possessed, the security agencies could have averted the invasion by providing necessary protection for the Coordinator. Similarly, if the security agencies had learned from the first incident, and provided the necessary security at the courthouse, knowing the group in question the gross interference with the cause of justice could have been avoided.
The bungling of such a high profile case by institutions in the criminal justice system can only further undermine trust of the justice system and violates the fundamental rights of Ghanaians that everyone is equal before the law. The verdict in the case of the ‘Delta Thirteen’ may be pleasing to NPP-affiliated organs and their supporters. However, the outcome of the verdict can only foster impunity, undermine the rule of law and reinforce a dangerously negative political culture.
This development has dealt another devastating blow to the keen desire of many Ghanaians for justice and the rule of law. The ‘slap-on-the-wrist’ punishment given to a group of ruling party-affiliated criminal suspects only reinforces the unfortunate impression that incumbent party members and affiliates who break the law can count on the protection of the powers that be, and would not face the full rigors of the law. Indeed, it is also a major victory for a baneful phenomenon in Ghanaian politics: political vigilantism and hooliganism – which the Center and other civil society actors have flagged as posing a mortal danger to democratic politics and national peace.
Finally, CDD-Ghana hopes that all stakeholders interested in improving and sustaining democratic governance in Ghana heed the call to action to find a lasting solution to the problem of political vigilantism. And that the institutions of the criminal justice system will act to honor the letter and spirit of the Constitution, and as well serve a notice of deterrence should similar incidents occur in the future.
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