Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Court orders Director of BNI to answer contempt charges

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 (Centre Spread)

THE Court of Appeal yesterday ordered the Director of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) and two others to appear before the Human Rights Court and openly answer contempt charges levelled against them by a former Minister of Information, Mr Stephen Asamoah-Boateng.
The court accordingly dismissed an appeal filed by the Attorney-General’s Department, which prayed the Court of Appeal to dismiss the Human Right Court’s order to the BNI officials.
In a unanimous decision, the court upheld the ruling of the Human Rights Division of the High Court which disagreed with the A-G’s Department’s suggestion that it would be inimical for the identities of the respondents to be blown, stating that the BNI and the police enjoyed the same rights and protection.
The court gave its ruling in the matter after a Chief State Attorney, Mrs Helen Kwawukume, and Mr Peter Okudzeto argued for the state and Mr Asamoah-Boateng respectively.
On October 29, 2009, the High Court, presided over by Mr Justice U. P. Dery, declined to grant a request by the A-G’s Department which had prayed it to hear the matter in camera in order to protect the identities of the respondents.
Mr Asamoah-Boateng, Zuleika, Nana Yaw Asamoah-Boateng and Andrew Asamoah-Boateng instituted the contempt action against the three respondents — Yaw Donkor, Josephine Gandawiri and Stephen Abrokwa — and the A-G for preventing them from travelling outside the country on two occasions without recourse to a court order.
The High Court had ruled that it had carefully studied the Securities and Intelligence Act (Act 526), which clearly spells out the rights of the police and the BNI as the same and for that reason “the BNI cannot be given special treatment”.
The Court of Appeal upheld the lower court’s decision but declined to award costs against the state.
The contempt action was instituted when the four applicants were prevented from travelling outside the country on June 14, 2009 without any court order or warrant, following which they filed an application seeking an injunction to restrain the BNI from further preventing them from travelling without a court order.
While the application was pending, the applicants claimed the BNI again disregarded the action and prevented them from travelling on another date.
The substantive matter has been adjourned to January 20, 2010.

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