By Ivy Benson
The Danquah Institute (DI), a governance think-tank has lauded the express intention of the Attorney-General in using the legal powers available to her under the Fourth Republican Constitution to set up the proposed Ghana Independent Prosecution Service.
In March 2010, the governance think tank, charged the Government of Ghana to implement the manifesto pledge of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) by setting up an independent prosecution service without hiding behind the pretext of a constitutional amendment.
It was the view of the Attorney-General during her parliamentary vetting last year and afterwards, when she was announcing the Constitutional Review Commission that Government would only be able to institute an Independent Public Prosecutor after a constitutional amendment.
However, the Executive Director of DI, Mr. Asare ”Gabby” Otchere-Darko, disputed the stance of the Government in his speech last March during public lectures on International Corruption delivered by UK Barrister and expert on internal Criminal Law, John Hardy, QC, and renowned Criminologist, Prof. Ken Attafuah at the K.A. Busia Hall, University of Ghana, Legon.
“The Fourth Republic Constitution of Ghana as it stands now, expressly allows the Attorney-General to immediately delegate her powers of prosecution to an impartial agency by a simple Act of Parliament. This could easily create an autonomous prosecution service to realise the stated intentions of President Mills and perform the A-G’s functions that are akin to those of the Director of Prosecutions, who heads the Crown Prosecution Service in the United Kingdom,” the Danquah Institute stated at the time.
In a press statement issued in Accra, the DI said it is, therefore, thrilled over the latest development for the Attorney-General heeding to its call and had expressed its willingness to share some ideas with the Attorney-General, towards achieving success in the implementation of the programme, in view of a research it had conducted on it.
According to DI, the Attorney-General has the authority of the Constitution to direct any other person, in accordance with the law, to assess and conduct prosecutions on behalf of the state.
It has also been the view of the DI for Government to reserve the prosecution of certain crimes that are national security sensitive, such as treason, to the express approval of the Attorney-General.
The call in March for the creation of an Independent Prosecutor at the Public Forum by the policy think tank, followed a statement made by the Minister of Communications, Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, at the public lectures on Money Laundering, two days earlier at the British Council that Government would only be able to do so after a constitutional amendment.
While welcoming the NDC’s stated intentions to create an Independent Chief Prosecutor, the DI also called on government to do more in promoting within the Police Service and other investigative bodies, the “culture of confidence to investigate without fear or favour. This is because even an independent Prosecutor would first need to be presented with a docket, before a decision can be taken either to prosecute or not.”
The DI suggested further, “We may also consider the situation, as in Finland, where charges against certain high-ranking public officials for offences in office are heard by the Court of Appeal, as a case in first instance, instead of at a lower court.”
Moreover, the DI has expressed some doubts about the work of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), which is seeking to undertake constitutional amendments of provisions that are entrenched before the term of the current administration ends in January 2013.
“We are rather cautious about the work of the Constitutional Review Commission finishing in time to be put before a national referendum before the 2012 General Elections, especially when it could cost nearly as much as General Elections to conduct that referendum, and whether or not it would not be frustrated by the usual partisan considerations that distort the appreciation of issues of common national interest,” DI intimated.
However, the governance think-tank views it as “a step in the right direction for a government to appreciate the importance of guaranteeing the integrity of the chief prosecutor of any democracy. This role is central in a democracy governed by the rule of law and critical to the general expectation of an effective criminal justice system.”
The DI further shares the view that the country is “so polarised that the creation of an independent prosecution service manned by people with unimpeachable credibility would contribute to public safety and public confidence in the administration of criminal justice in Ghana. It must be seen that justice would be carried out objectively and fairly, without improper influence or interference from any source.”
The Governance think-tank is also calling for the “introduction of a standard charge approval process which should ensure that cases which go to court are sufficiently supported by the anticipated admissible evidence, and that prosecutions are pursued only if they are in the public interest and not because party supporters or party leaders want it.”
It sees the current pressure placed on the Attorney-General, Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu as “unhelpful to the development of our democratic institutions” and, therefore, urged the leadership of the various political parties to advise their followers to allow the rule of law to work.
Expressing its worry over the present political agitations for the prosecutions of public officials, the DI questioned the situation the guarantee that party supporters would not in the future march to the offices of an Independent Prosecutor to demand prosecutions or otherwise, if their leaders are reluctant today to discourage them.