One of Ghana’s most respected legal luminaries, and a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice in the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration, Martin A. B. K Amidu, has described as unconstitutional, the procedure adopted by the Supreme Court in jailing the Montie FM trio.
The man, whose pursuit of justice for the state earned him the title ‘citizen vigilante,’thus becomes one of the first lawyers to boldly speak to the issue with such depth of explanations.
According to the outspoken lawyer, although the Supreme Court has the power to commit for contempt, it erred in this instance because the act in question occurred outside court.
The sentencing of the three, he said, “runs roughshod over the liberty of the individual under Chapter 5 of the Constitution”. Salifu Maase, Alistair Nelson and Godwin Ako Gunn, commonly referred to as the Montie trio, are currently serving a four month prison sentence handed them by the Supreme Court in July, after they were found guilty of contempt charges brought against them.
The three NDC sympathizers, had on a radio programme threatened to eliminate justices of the Supreme Court over their handling of the lawsuit questioning the credibility of Ghana’s voters’ register.
In an opinion piece exclusively copied to Citifmonline.com however, the former AG argued that, the method through which the country’s apex court summoned and sentenced the three individuals, contravenes several Articles of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.
“The inquisitorial Star Chambers method of ancient Britain by which the accused were brought before and tried by the Court was clearly inconsistent with and in contravention of Articles 12, 14(1), 19(2), 21(1), and 33(5) of the 1992 Constitution”, the former Attorney General stated.
According to him, the title of the case was equally problematic because the Supreme Court did not have regard for Article 88 of the 1992 Constitution which mandates only the Attorney General or his assigns to prosecute such cases.
“…Because the Court had assumed the arbitrary power of being the complainant, prosecutor, and judge in its own cause the title of the case was Abu Ramadan, Evans Nimako vrs. 1. Electoral Commission 2. The Attorney General, In Re: 1. The Owners of the Station – Montie FM, 2. Salifu Maase @ Mugabe (3) Alistair Nelson (4) Godwin Ako Gunn as though the criminal contempt was committed in facie curiae”, he noted.
The one-time Attorney General, who was later hounded out of the then Mills administration allegedly for his straightforwardness and commitment to fight rot, is also worried that the accused persons “were arbitrarily hauled before the Court without any semblance of the due process of law in criminal justice administration as mandated by the Constitution.”
Amidu backs calls for pardon for Montie 3
The former AG also waded into the controversial issue of Presidential Pardon for the convicted Montie trio, saying it is the only way they can be freed because the Supreme Court deprived them of any form of redress.
“In my respectful view the most objective justification for the exercise of the power of mercy in this case is that the Court by adopting an unconstitutional procedure in convicting and imprisoning the contemnors, in one fell swoop, deprived them of any right of an appeal or a review of the decision of the Court”, Amidu argued.
“As for the argument that it will be an interference with the independence of the judiciary to grant any pardon, I will like the proponents of that doctrine to tell the whole world which exercise of the President’s powers of pardon cannot be said to be an interference with judicial independence in the sense that it pardons convictions and/or sentences already imposed in exercise of the Court’s judicial power. That is why it is a prerogative of mercy!” he charged.
Contemnors’ lawyers failed them – Amidu
The one-time NDC running mate to the late President Mills, also lashed out at lawyers for the contemnors over what he terms, their failure to argue out the case of their clients properly in respect of their constitutional rights.
“They led their all trusting clients to the Court to plead guilty to the alleged charges of criminal contempt only to turn round to criticize the Court for interfering with the contemnors’ right to free speech because of the magnitude of the sentences imposed by the Court,” he observed.