CAN YOU HEAR THE CRY OF THEIR BLOOD FROM THE GROUND? By Maame Akua Koduah

The news concerning the premature demise of Captain Mahama spread like wildfire in Ghana.  Citizens of Ghana were put in a state of mourning. How such a handsome, kind and dedicated man could have his life snuffed away like a candle could not help but be a topic for discussion nationwide. The horrific manner in which this valiant hero died left many stupefied. I have never watched the video showing the gruesome way he died; the little I have heard people say about it is enough for me.Mob justice is a phenomenon which needs to be dealt with. The causes, effects and recommendations for ending mob justice would be discussed in this article.

Ghana prides itself on being a peaceful nation. The million dollar question is whether this is true. Over the years, people have had their lives taken from them by the ‘justices’ in the various constituencies. The only sentence such ‘judges’ give is immediate death to the unfortunate victim. Many innocent people have died as a result of this verdict. I really wonder whether these ‘judges’ doubling as the executors of this dastardly act ever wonder about the loved ones the victim would be leaving behind. Are they so blinded by their thirst for blood that they immediately have to satisfy this uncontrollable urge?

Mob justice is a major menace which has been occurring over the years without seeming to abate. There have been many news reports on the television, radio, internet and in the newspapers concerning this menace.  Mob justice in Ghana usually leads to the death of the person.  The ladies are usually stripped naked and sexually assaulted contrary to the laws of Ghana specifically the 1992 constitution and the Criminal Offences Act 1960 (Act 29).

There have been numerous instances where people have died as a result of mob justice. It is usually suspected criminals and witches who suffer this fate. On the same day that Captain Mahama died, a 67 year old woman accused of being a witch in the Northern part of Ghana, Tindongo, was stoned to death. A 75 year old woman was also lynched to death by 2 brothers who accused her of being a witch and whom they suspected of having killed their grandmother and mother in 2012. Kofi Sensen, a middle aged man, was lynched for allegedly stealingGh 1.50 at a drinking spot in 2017.

There are different reasons for mob justice in Ghana. One reason is the unnecessary delay in dealing with criminal cases by the police and the courts. This has led to people becoming aggrieved and deciding to take matters into their own hands.

Also, there appears to be general dissatisfaction with the criminal punishment system in the nation. Even though there have been statutorily prescribed and defined punishments for various criminal offences in Ghana, they are largely at the discretion of the courts. This, at times, leads to minimal sentences being imposed on people for the heinous crimes they committed which are appalling to the public.

Corruption also leads to mob justice. The bribery and corruption of those comrprising the judicial sector as well as lack of or poor investigation of criminal cases has led to mob justice.  In Ghana, a suspected criminal may be handed over to a security or law enforcement agency only to be released soon after. This is due topartiality on the part of those comprising the judicial sector who may be receiving money or favours from these criminals.

There are laws against mob justice in Ghana but these laws appear to be highly ineffective. Chapter 5 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana deals with fundamental human rights. Article 13 of the 1992 constitution makes the right to life inviolable. Clause 1 of article 13 provides that: “No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally except in the exercise of the execution of a sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence under the laws of Ghana of which he has been convicted.” From this clause, only the judges in a court have the power to pass a death sentence on a person after conviction for the commission of a criminal offence.

Every person is held to be innocent in a criminal court of competent jurisdiction until he or she is proven guilty of the commission of a crime. This presumption is found in Article 19(2)(c) of the 1992 constitution which says  “A person chargedwith a criminal offence shall  be presumed to be innocent until he is proved or has pleaded guilty.”

It is not up to those constituting the mob to declare the victim or accused guilty; the latter must be given a fair hearing under Article 19(1) of the constitution and be declared guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. This is one of the tenets of natural justice.

Mob justice downgrades a person’s right to dignity. Article 15 (1) of the 1992 constitution makes a person’s right to dignity inviolable.  Clause 2 states that “No person shall, whether or not he is arrested, restricted or retained, be subjected. Mob justice goes contrary to the laws of Ghana by subjecting a person not convicted of a crime to despicable acts.

Apart from the 1992 constitution, the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) also contains some laws which make mob justice a crime. Since mob justice involves physical harassment to the victim by the perpetrators usually in the form of beatings with sticks, stones, blocks as well as kicks, this would amount tobattery under Act 29. This physical harassment would also constitute unlawful harm under the Act. It appears that the perpetrators may be unable to invoke the justification for unlawful harm under Part 2 of Act 29; self-defence would not inure to the benefit of the perpetrators. This is simply because it is usually the accused who is running away from his or her impending death with the perpetrators hot at his or her heels. The mere fact that the lynching usually leads to the death of the accused amounts to murder under sections 46 and 47 of Act 29.

I hope the death of the captain would serve as a wakeup call against mob justice in the country. What good are the laws of Ghana if they are not being utilized for the benefit of the people? The law was not made to merely exist and beautify the country.  It was rather made to be invoked as and when necessary. People should be sensitized about mob justice and the fact that it constitutes a crime in Ghana. Ignorance of the law after all is not an excuse under section 29 of Act 29.

The police should be quicker on their feet in stopping mob justice. All people who are witnesses of this dastardly act should also inform the relevant authorities immediately they see the act taking place. This may end up saving the life of the victim.  The perpetrators of the act should not be allowed to go scot free; human life is not something that should be treated lightly at all. The perpetrators must all be arraigned before the court with the appropriate punishments meted to each and every one of them as soon as possible. By doing this, the rule of law prevails and justice in its entirety would be served.