‘Our Job Will Mean Nothing If Only A Few People Can Truly Have Justice – CJ
Chief Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah, has vindicated National Security Minister, Albert Kan-Dapaah, by telling Magistrates and Judges that their job will mean nothing, if only a few people can “truly have justice.”
“If the scales are weighed in only one direction and if there are people who cannot, for any reason, believe that the justice system works for them as hard as it does for their neighbours [then our job will mean nothing],” he said.
The Chief Justice, said this in a speech read on his behalf by Justice Jones Dotse, a Justice of the Supreme Court at the opening of the 19th Triennial Conference of the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA) in Accra on Monday.
The National Security Minister, Kan-Dapaah in April this year, came under heavy attack from the New Patriotic Party (NPP)’s Legal Committee Chairman, Frank Davies, for asking Ghanaian judges to balance their judgements. The minister’s comment came not long after the Supreme Court judges who handled the Election Petition filed by ex-President John Dramani Mahama, became the butt household and beer jokes for being unanimous in all their decisions.
Mr Kan-Dapaah, speaking at a sensitisation workshop on the national security strategy for judges of the superior courts, warned that the perception that the judiciary is biased has dire consequences on the country’s security warning if this is not checked, it will compel the citizenry to take the law into their own hands for personal satisfaction with the bench deemed biased.
“Injustice occasioned as a result of the absence of an effective justice delivery system or delayed justice or biased justice is certainly a threat to national security.
“Indeed, when injustice abounds, particularly in situations where the bench, which is considered the final arbiter of disputes, is deemed biased, citizens tend to take the law into their own hands most times without recourse to the established systems of justice delivery,” he said.
He added, “If the interpretation of the law is tilted in our favour all the time, people will start accusing the judiciary and will not have the confidence that they need.”
But Frank Davies, disagrees with the position of the National Security Minister saying “I think that statement was made completely out of context. You don’t dispense justice in tandem with whichever political party holding the reins of government.
“…who determines who has tilted the interpretation of the law? I think it was just a misplaced statement,” he added, stating that the Minister’s comments are misplaced because “saying that one political party is in power [so] the justices should be mindful of how they interpret the law is completely lopsided.
“National security would be threatened in what way? So, what? The judges are supposed to balance the equation? They give five judgements in favour of the NPP and give another five in favour of the NDC?
“It’s not a sharing party. I really respect Kan-Dapaah a lot but I think maybe he got the context completely wrong,” he said in an interview with JoyNews, on Monday April, 11, 2022.
However, Director of the National Democratic Congress (NDC)’s Legal Directorate, Abraham Amaliba, said that the National Security Minister spoke from the position of a national security person who has more information. He called on the judges to heed the advice.
“I totally disagree with Frank Davies. I think that the Minister of National Security was actually speaking about what most Ghanaians think about the judiciary and being the National Security officer, he would have gotten some information.”
A security analyst, Prof. Kwesi Aning also agreed with the admonishment by Mr. Kan-Dapaah, that the judiciary does not amount to an accusation against the institution.
Prof. Anning believes the Minister only cautioned that some rulings have national security threats.
He, therefore, urged the public to take the Minister’s caution seriously. He also asked some prominent lawyers in the country to add their voices to the conversation.
The Chief Justice’s speech comes as at time Ghana’s judiciary has come under severe bashing from both private citizens and politicians including the General Secretary of the opposition NDC, Johnson Asiedu Nketiah about its neutrality with the criminal trials of the ex-Ghana Cocoa Board Chief Executive, Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni and the businessman, Alhaji Seidu Agongo being the quickest reference point.
The trial judge, Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, who just retired at age 70, was in the middle of the trial removed by his peers in the Supreme Court in 3:2 majority decision on the basis bias based on certain utterances he made against the accused persons.
On July 28, 2021, the Supreme Court held that in dismissing a submission of no case filed by Dr Opuni, Justice Honyenuga made certain pronouncements which could be interpreted that he (judge) had already found the accused persons guilty, even before they opened their defence.
Such an act, the court held, gave rise to the likelihood of bias and accordingly prohibited Justice Honyenuga from presiding over the case.
Some of statement were also expunged by the Supreme Court from the records of the trial court, however, Justice Honyenuga, who got promoted to the Supreme Court while in the middle of the case, was reinstated after a review strongly argued by the Deputy Attorney-General, Alfred Tuah-Yeboah.
Justice Honyenuga, retired last Sunday, September 4, 2022 but says he has been given a short time to finish the Opuni-Agongo case.
The six-day conference is on the theme: “Access to Justice in a Modern World.” The conference attracted 390 delegates from six regions of the Commonwealth, including Chief Justices, Judges, Magistrates, Lawyers, and judicial officials to exchange ideas and share experiences towards spurring change and innovation in justice administration within the Commonwealth.
The event aims at promoting better understanding of judicial independence amongst judicial officers of all ranks and from all parts of the Commonwealth.
It also seeks to promote greater awareness amongst Magistrates and Judges of the Commonwealth of international treaties and laws relating to development and access to justice.
The Chief Justice said the principle of justice for all must energise them daily and become the measure of their approach to the prosecution of their duties.
He said in “these tense times, citizens across the Commonwealth and other parts of the world must be assured that there is an avenue for them to have their grievances properly addressed in a way that is fair, equitable and just.”
Chief Justice Anin-Yeboah said, “we cannot be in the frontline of medical and military battles, but the law is what must guide all those who are and so for that reason, we must be actively engaged in these matters and ensure that the weak are protected and rights of all are secured.”
He said a changing world, shifting geo-political sands, economic uncertainty and accelerating climate change were a heady mix that required sure-footed responses.
“To be certain, access to justice will be a key feature in any of the solutions that we will fashion out to respond to any and all of these crises that we face,” he added.
He said he believed that it was extremely important to, as they had chosen to do, explore ways in which they could increase access to justice for all in the modern world.
He said the role of justice as a preservative gel in society could not be overemphasized.
Chief Justice Anin-Yeboah said the idea of society, where people with disparate dispositions, with conflicting needs must share space and time, could not be possible if there was not an impartial and predictable system to adjudicate the inevitable tensions that would arise.
“The assurance that we can have justice that we will be protected from harm, and we can go about our lawful business is what keeps all of us together,” he said.
He said in Ghana, the judiciary had found that technology was an effective and budget-friendly way to adjudicate cases.
“While we are determined to have modern court infrastructure around the country, we have discovered that we can use technology to realise the broader objectives that can be achieved by more and larger buildings,” he added.
Justice Charles Mkandawire, the President of CMJA, said the conference organisers had put together a simulating programme to fix some of the current challenges faced by judicial officers across the Commonwealth.
He said CMJA was the only organisation bringing together judicial officers of all court levels in an atmosphere of collegiality and mutual respect.
He commended the Ghana Local Organising Committee for having prepared an exciting social programme and to the government for providing the political and financial support to the judiciary for the programme.