CDD-GHANA STATEMENT ON REACTIONS TO THE HIGH COURT RULING IN THE YA-NA MURDER TRIAL
The Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) expresses its grave concern over reactions in certain quarters to the recent decision of the High Court in Accra in respect of the trial of certain individuals for their alleged complicity in the 2002 murder of the Ya-Na.
CDD-Ghana would like to register its deepest sympathy with the elders and people of Dagbon for the tragic and criminal murder of their King. That the perpetrators and abettors of this heinous act remain at large nearly a decade after the fact is damaging to prospects for peace, stability and development in Dagbon in particular and the nation at large. We therefore share with the elders and people of Dagbon their collective frustration and disappointment over the apparent failure of the State authorities to marshal the necessary investigative resources to help bring due closure to this case.
CDD-Ghana is deeply concerned that the legitimate expectation of the people of Dagbon for justice and closure in a matter as grave as this has been seized upon by politicians to further their own narrow and self-interested agendas to the detriment of peace and unity in Dagbon. Instead of providing professional investigators and prosecutors with the resources and support necessary to get to the bottom of this case in a systematic fashion, our politicians have chosen to add partisan fuel to an already tense and divisive situation.
We are especially appalled by the reactions of elements of the ruling NDC as well as the opposition NPP to the recent verdict rendered by the High Court in Accra. While politicians, like all other citizens, are free to comment on decisions of the courts, it crosses the line of appropriate and responsible commentary and subverts our young constitutional order for politicians and others who should know better to examine a judicial verdict simply and purely through narrow partisan political lenses, all with a view to exploiting the verdict for maximum partisan advantage. It is worse still when political and civic leaders proceed to make comments that seek to destroy public faith in our judges and judicial system and to mobilize factional and partisan anger and frustration against judges who discharge their lawful duties in the courts of law.
It is particularly irresponsible for politicians and civic leaders to reinforce the popular misconception that the State’s case in a trial is always foolproof and, therefore, that the State must prevail in every case, or even in most of the cases, it brings before the courts of law. The courts of Ghana are not the judicial wing of the NDC or the NPP; they are established under the Constitution as independent arbiters of legal disputes and are duty-bound to dispense justice based solely on the facts and the evidence, without fear or favor, affection or ill-will toward one or the other party involved in the dispute. It is therefore gravely troubling for politicians to give the impression that the courts exist to do the bidding of one or the other political party. It is indeed offensive to the integrity of our judicial system and a threat to the security and independence of our judges for politicians to openly politicize matters that properly lie in the province of prosecutors and the courts and, then, turn around and place the burden of the blame and disappointment on judges when the outcomes of those cases do not meet with their partisan approval.
Our system of justice offers litigants who are aggrieved by an adverse decision of a trial court the opportunity to exercise their right to appeal the judgment to a higher court. Short of exercising that right and allowing the due process of law to take its course, we deem it highly inappropriate and damaging to the Rule of Law and the peace of our nation for politicians to incite partisan passions for or against a judge who has sat in judgment over a case.
We are compelled to remind our politicians that Ghana does not belong to the NPP or the NDC. All of us, without regard to party, have an equal stake in the peace, progress and development of this nation. We therefore entreat Ghanaians, and especially the citizens of Dagbon, to reject the misguided attempts by certain extreme elements in both the NDC and the NPP to politicize the search for justice in the Ya-Na case. We also appeal to social and political commentators as well as journalists to be circumspect in their comments on the judiciary and allow the due process of law to take its course.
CDD-Ghana calls on the Council of State, the National House of Chiefs, and all civil society groups to rise to the occasion and call our politicians to order before they imperil the stability and peace of our nation or destroy the institution of the judiciary. We also urge the Constitution Review Commission to give serious consideration to the idea of depoliticizing the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases by recommending, in its final proposals, that the prosecutorial function in Ghana be assigned to a constitutionally-independent Office of Prosecution, instead of a politician Attorney-General. We have come too far along the path toward democratic and constitutional consolidation to allow our progress to be set back by the undue politicization of the rule of law.