General News Wed, 12 Mar 2008

5-Years In Jail For Nothing

*Sad tale of how the nation is abusing the rights of a 24-year old and how Ghana turns young folks into hardened criminals through a flawed justice system

EVEN THOUGH the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Hon. Joe Ghartey, promised imminent significant reforms in the Judicial Service in early 2007 and what he described as “Bail Alert,” to reduce the periods of suspects on remand, cases of long remand of accused persons with some running into years in Ghana’s prisons seem not to have any end as similar cases keep coming up.

A critical case which could best be described as bizarre and pathetic is that of Eric Osae, who has been on remand for the past five years without trial for alleged robbery, which human rights advocates describe as serious infringement of the fundamental rights of the victim.

Eric is 24 years of age and was a driver’s mate at the time he was arrested by the Police in 2003.

Even though Eric was never seen nor arrested by the Police at the scene of the said robbery, he has been languishing at the Nsawam Medium Term Security Prisons for half a decade for reasons best known to the Ghana Police Service and the law lords.

According to family of Eric Osae, who spoke to Gye Nyame Concord at their Teacher Mante residence in the Eastern Region, their son was arrested by police personnel from the Nsawam District Police while onboard a tro-tro from Nsawam to Accra way back in the year 2003 for robbery and has since neither been tried nor been released by those who arrested him.

The family said the police later told their son that he was seen in a group photograph with his friends who were identified by victims of the said armed robbery at Nsawam as the perpetrators.

According to the relatives, even though their son has once been arrested by the same police outfit and arraigned before a court for loitering only for him to be acquitted and discharged by the court, he has no criminal record and noted that the police have consistently refused to listen to the pleas of innocence by Eric Osae.

Family sources also confirmed to this paper that the health status of their son is seriously deteriorating by the day, claiming that they are not financially sound to meet the healthcare needs of their child since Eric was the one who used to partially support them financially.

What is most shocking and revealing is that not a single charge has been preferred against the accused person.

Currently, there is a blackout concerning his docket (if any) and there is little or no information about his ‘trial’.

Among the things, Mr Ghartey said was that the controversial remand situation will be coming under further scrutiny, revealing that “a remand alert is going to be created.”

“This new position would be used to monitor the status of remand prisoners on a bi-weekly basis with an eye towards cases which have dragged on for some time”. Hon. Ghartey promised early last year.

However, the situation on the grounds is far from what the Honourable Minister for Justice and Attorney-General promised as part of the judicial reforms in the country’s court system.

Reached for clarification on the delay of Eric Osae’s case, Superintendent Nyampong, Police Commander of the Nsawam Police District, told Gye Nyame Concord that he was still trying to find out why the long remand of the accused person.

Meanwhile, family sources told this reporter that the docket of poor Eric Osae is domiciled in the Attorney-General’s office at the Eastern Regional capital, Koforidua, at the mercy of dust.

This, according to the sources, came about due to a directive that came from that office to all police outfits in the region in 2003 to forward dockets of all robbery cases to that office where all such cases were going to be prosecuted from.

Currently, there are people who have been locked up for up to 10 years without trial. However, authorities maintain that the process to release those on remand for very long periods without any hope of a trial is on course.

The Country Report on Human Rights Practices (2002) released by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour in March 31, 2003 had this to say about Ghana’s judicial and prisons services: “Prison conditions remained harsh and life-threatening. Prolonged pre-trial detention remained a problem.”

Source: gye nyame concord