Detainees in Ghana lack legal representation to challenge cases -US Report
Detainees lack legal representation to challenge cases in Ghana - US Report indicates
A Report by the United States Department has cited the lack of legal representation for detainees which inhibits their right despite the position of the law guaranteeing the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her detention in court.
It further notes that the Judiciary in Ghana was subjected to unlawful influence and corruption.
Judicial officers reportedly accepted bribes to expedite or postpone cases “lose” records, or issue favorable rulings for the payer of the bribe.
In its 2021 Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, The U.S. Department of State indicates; “The law requires detainees to be brought before a court within 48 hours of arrest in the absence of a judicial warrant, but authorities frequently detained individuals without charge or a valid arrest warrant for periods longer than 48 hours. Officials detained some prisoners for indefinite periods by renewing warrants or simply allowing warrants to lapse while an investigation took place.”
Further, it notes, “ While the constitution grants the right to legal aid, the government often did not provide it. The government has a Legal Aid Commission that provides defense attorneys to those in need, but the commission was often unable to do so. Defendants in criminal cases who could not afford a lawyer typically represented themselves,”
On arbitrary arrest, the report mentioned that “On May 20, police arrested 21 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex(LGBTQI+)activists in the city of Hoon spurious unlawful assembly charges. Authorities released the activists on June 11, and dropped the case on August 5.”
On this, the report notes that “in September, the Ghana Prisons Service indicated that 1,595prisoners, approximately12 percent of all prisoners, were in pretrial status. The government kept prisoners in extended pretrial detention due to police failure to investigate or follow up on cases, case files lost when police prosecutors rotated to other duties every three years, slow trial proceedings marked by frequent adjournments, detainees’ inability to meet bail conditions that were often set extremely high even for minor offenses, and inadequate legal representation for criminal defendants. The length of pre-trial detention exceeded the maximum sentence for the alleged crime in numerous instances,”
This According to the US Department contributed to prisoners being held in ‘egregiously’ excessive pretrial detention, for a few up to 10 years.
It adds that; “ Judicial authorities continued implementing a case tracking system on a trial basis in seven different regions. The system tracked cases from initial arrest to remand custody in the prisons, prosecution in the courts, and incarceration or dismissal. The system was envisioned to be used by all judicial and law enforcement participants, including police, public defenders, prosecutors, courts, prisons, the Legal Aid Commission, the Economic and Organized Crimes Office, and NGOs, to increase transparency and accountability. Some commentators believed the tracking system could be used to press for the release of remand prisoners held for a lengthy period.”
According to the report, “Most indigent accused persons, however, represented themselves in court. The Legal Aid Commission represented some defendants in criminal cases. Although the law provides for a Public Defender Division, the government did not establish it. Defendants also have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense, present witnesses and evidence, and confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, although generally defendants are expected to testify if the government presents sufficient preliminary evidence of guilt. Defendants have the right to appeal”