OccupyGhana: Murder of Soldiers and Military Brutalities against the People of Ashiaman
A mass swoop that occurs days after an offence, and detains as many as 184 people cannot be based on any suspicion that each of them had committed the offence. And even if any such suspicion arguably existed, it would be grossly unreasonable, unwarranted and perverse. Thus, the military unjustifiably violated the constitutional right to due process of every person they detained.
OccupyGhana like most Ghanaians, are horrified at the senseless and barbaric killing of the young soldier, lmoro Sheriff, in Ashiaman in the early hours of 4 March 2023 by then unknown assailants. We take this opportunity to extend our deepest and heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones. We are gratified that the police appear to have concluded their investigations, and the accused persons are already before court to be tried, and if convicted, duly punished for this heinous crime.
We are equally horrified at the also barbaric, totally uncalled for, absolutely unconstitutional and unlawful reaction of the military. The risible justifications put forward by the military in the press release issued by its Department of Public Relations on 7 March 2023 have been exposed as false by the facts provided by the police in their press release dated 12 March 2023, that the unfortunate death resulted from a suspected robbery attempt. Thus, this could have happened anywhere in Ghana and to any citizen of Ghana.
What has become apparent is that the entire action by the military was purely and simply in retaliation against the people of Ashiaman for a crime committed by a few people. Clearly, had this happened to any other citizen, the military would not have intervened. The irony is that the existence of the military as a fighting force and the arms they bear and deploy are supported and supplied by the taxes of the same citizens against whom they unleashed that retaliation.
There is therefore no justification for the pain, suffering and torture that the soldiers visited on clearly innocent people, after the fact. Any powers of arrest that the military may claim to have, is no different from the arrest powers of any citizen of this country, as regulated by the Constitution. The Constitution demands ‘reasonable suspicion’ that the specific person arrested has committed an offence. A mass swoop that occurs days after an offence, and detains as many as 184 people cannot be based on any suspicion that each of them had committed the offence. And even if any such suspicion arguably existed, it would be grossly unreasonable, unwarranted and perverse. Thus, the military unjustifiably violated the constitutional right to due process of every person they detained.
Further, our venerable Constitution guarantees inviolable dignity to all Ghanaians, even if we are suspected of having committed a crime. None of us is to be subjected to ‘torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ or ‘any other condition that detracts or is likely to detract from [our] dignity and worth as human beings.’ These rights of each of the Ashiaman residents have also been gravely violated. The military themselves appear to have filmed and shared videos of subjecting these citizens to unspeakable indignities, making an absolute and total a farce of what our Constitution represents and what they see their role in the Ghanaian society as. With these barbaric acts, they made themselves, judge, jury and executioner, and a very terrible one at that!
The accused persons are facing the law, and rightly so. The perpetrators of these violations must also face the law. First, the military personnel involved and every officer who authorised those actions must be tried. Second, officers and supervisors who endorsed the acts after they happened must resign. Third, the High Command of the military must apologise to everyone the military subjected to these violations. And, fourth, the state must compensate each affected person.
But more importantly, we need to resolve and ensure that this does not happen again. The military must accept that under this Constitution, they cannot exercise any powers that they deem fit. The Constitution provides that they ‘be equipped and maintained to perform their role of defence of Ghana as well as such other functions for the development of Ghana as the President may determine.’ Thus, the only reasons we equip and maintain the military are (i) the ‘defence of Ghana,’ and (ii) development functions determined by the President, which do not include what they did to the people of Ashiaman on 4 March 2023.
The military and all other security agencies are supposed to protect the people of Ghana, not turn on us. It is high time they acknowledged this. We demand this for God and Country.
Our ref: OG/2023/014
OCCUPYGHANA PRESS STATEMENT
Accra, 15 March 2023