Opinions Tue, 25 Sep 2007

Rampant Instant Justice

Assault on Human Values

It’s almost ten years now and I was taking a walk on the Kumasi Anglican Secondary School and the Polytechnic Street with my good friend. Getting to the Odd Fellows Temple behind the Polytechnic Halls of residence, we saw a large crowd gathered around a mutilated dead body of a young man in his late twenties.

When we enquired from bystanders, we were told that he was murdered by a mob after being caught stealing a car tyre from a nearby Total Service Station. In my uttermost bolt from the blue my good friend was full of praises for the perpetrators of this heinous crime.

To crown it all, my learned friend was ignorant of the fact that instant justice is a crime, and the perpetrators of this dastardly act are sheer murderers. Well, he wasn’t the only ignoramus then, and even today.

A decade down the lane, instant justice continues to be a headache for our supposedly free and democratic society. How can we be so cruel to a fellow human being even if he/she is a criminal?

However, many innocent souls have been lost through these cold-hearted acts. A sadistic incident that happened in Ashanti New Town a few years comes in mind. A 24-year-old young man who has been sojourning abroad with his parents for the past fourteen years returned home to visit her grandmother.

The young man woke up one morning around 4:30 am to jog; unfortunately, a group of people were chasing a burglar in the neighbourhood, and the burglar outsmart them so when they got to the next street and saw the young man jogging, they miss-took him for the burglar and pounced on him till he was beaten to death.

There have been instances where people who go to other neighbourhoods to see their girlfriends have been branded thieves and murdered by mob justices out of jealousy by other young men in the neighbourhood.

Tenets of a free society have it that no one is a criminal until that person is convicted by a competent court of law. Chapter (5) Article (13) Clause (1) of our 1992 Republican constitution has strongly asserted “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”.

Sadly, compatriots have turned themselves into police officers, magistrates and judges to melt out punishment to offenders instantly without verifying whether they are guilty or not. It is very imperative for us to know that no one was born a criminal, but it is society, that creates criminals.

What is happening in our most hospitable and warm country, that we are murdering our own countrymen like that? Yes, a thief in no doubt should be punished at all cost, but not in this inhumane manner. More so, who is more criminal, the offender or the perpetrator?

Dastardly acts like this should make every civilised person bow his head in shame. Instant justice is decidedly affront to a free and civilised society like ours. Lawlessness of this nature portends danger to human rights and the rule of law. There is no place for such barbarity in a democratic society.

Almost 15 years of practising democracy we have still not learnt basic human values. Atrocities like these are a slap in the faces of all those who call themselves members of a civilised society. Indeed it is a metaphor of human cruelty of a country that is celebrating 50 years of independence.

Excuses like thieves can turn you into a pauper overnight, and armed robbers can take your property rights away, kill and even rape your wife is indisputable. But folks, no amount of explanation can justify such acts of inhumane social arrogance, which brings our dear country’s image to a shameful low.

Moreover, what flummox my little mind is that not even a single person has been arrested or prosecuted for these numerous murders taking place in our cities and towns. No wonder a lot of people thinks mob justice is not a punishable crime.

The widespread instant justice is only an indication of civil society’s complete lack of trust in the law and order enforcement machinery. If the first point of call when your rights are trampled upon is infested with corruption, then I’m afraid we cannot fight against these human rights abuses.

Those who have ever been to our police stations to file a case know what I’m talking about. There is no way you will get a medical form to go to hospital without paying a bribe. A lot of people complain about how criminals are still walking the streets free after being arrested and handed over to the police. Not to talk of the five thousand Cedis in the middle of driving licences.

Such actions by some policemen bring a bad name to the entire force, alienate a section from the mainstream forever, and morally weaken our fight against all forms of injustices. In short, Police-Public Relations are in shambles.

The needless delay of cases in our courts also discourages people from seeking redress through our courts. Off course justice delay is justice denied.

In fact, state institutions like the National Commission for Civic Education must do more to raise awareness on this negative practice to ensure respect for human rights. Their excuse has always been inadequate funding from the state. However, they can collaborate with Civil Society Organisation and business to wage a relentless war against this canker.

The media on the other hand especially the several radio stations in the country can play a greater role. Journalist must do a better job of understanding and reporting human rights abuses.

Further more, the state should focus on eliminating poverty and create jobs by ensuring economic freedom. Chasing hawkers and traders out of the streets and demolishing their shops in the name of building beautiful cities is very unfortunate. Probably, the reason for so many people taking to crime

We must all join hands as a civilised people to condemn and fight this inhumanity against humanity. Don’t forget the Ghanaian proverb that says: “If you see your brother’s beard on fire, you must prepare by fetching water, in case it spread to your own”.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Adusei, Afrikanus Kofi Akosah