Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Court orders release of 5 soldiers

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 (Page 3)

BARELY 12 hours after the Human Rights Court ordered the immediate release of five soldiers who were being held by the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) for allegedly playing a role in the murder of the Deputy Managing Director of the Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB), Mr Rokko Frimpong, one of the soldiers has been picked up by security forces.
Sergeant Michael Arthur, was picked up at his home by the Military Police around 8.00 p.m. on December 15, 2009 and handed over to the BNI.
However, counsel for Sgt. Arthur told the Daily Graphic that the BNI claimed it did not know the whereabouts of Sgt. Arthur.
Mr Joe Aboagye Debrah said the military authorities told Sgt. Arthur's family members that they had handed over Sgt. Arthur to the BNI.
According to counsel, the family of Sgt. Arthur told him (counsel) that they (family members) visited the BNI offices this morning but they were informed Sgt. Arthur was not in the BNI's custody.
Mr Debrah said he would go to court if the BNI did not put Sgt. Arthur before court after 48 hours as was required under the law.
In the substantive case in which Sgt. Arthur and four others were released, defence lawyers had argued before the court that their clients’ continued detention was a flagrant abuse of their human rights, as enshrined under the 1992 Constitution, especially when the BNI failed to give a tangible reason for their continued detention.
On Tuesday, December 15, 2009, the Presiding Judge, Ms Justice Irene Charity Danquah, said it was wrong for the BNI to keep the soldiers at an undisclosed place for more than 48 hours without a court order and without telling the soldiers which offence they were being held for.
The soldiers, Sergeants Arthur, Richard Somuah and Lamptey Haizel and Corporals Charles Ankumah and Emmanuel Antwi, beamed with smiles when the court ordered their immediate release.
The five were picked up between November 12 and 14, 2009 to an undisclosed location, prompting their spouses to file an application for habeas corpus. Habeas corpus, a Latin phrase, is a legal action through which a person can seek relief from unlawful detention or that of another person.
The application was expected to be heard on December 2, 2009 but the State secured the remand of the soldiers on December 1, 2009 at the Accra Circuit Court.
But the court disapproved of the action of the BNI and in effect its order renders the remand warrant from the lower court a nugatory.
Citing authorities to buttress the court's decision, the judge held that it was unfortunate for the BNI to claim it did not know it was unlawful to continuously detain the soldiers without a court order.
The court refused to accept the excuse by the BNI that it made an error of assumption that it was all right to keep the soldiers for more than 48 hours without a court order, adding that "no assumption of error should be made where the rights of individuals are concerned".
"It will be a great indictment on the security forces if the court was made to believe that they did not know that the soldiers were kept unlawfully after 48 hours without a court order," the presiding judge pointed out adding that if the allegations against the soldiers were true, the gravity of the offence did not take away their human rights as enshrined in the Constitution.
It further held that there was nothing to show that provisional charges had been preferred against the soldiers at the lower court, adding that the State failed to furnish the High Court with the proceedings at the lower court which led to the remand of the soldiers.

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