Editorial: Ashaiman raid: Monopoly of force should not be exercised capriciously

Following the unfortunate killing of a military personnel by unknown persons at Ashaiman, near Tema, over the weekend, and the subsequent invasion of the place by armed military personnel on Tuesday, we advised the public to always see security personnel as people who have been recruited by the state to protect the citizenry.

Therefore, attacking them to the extent of terminating their lives will not inure to the benefit of the state. We have also educated the citizens to understand the importance of the security services and appreciate how they risk their lives to ensure our safety. Such people, we argued in this column yesterday, must not be harmed. Simply put, the public must respect the men and women in security uniform.

Though The Chronicle, as a newspaper, was not happy with the way and manner the military invaded Ashaiman, and the subsequent beating of innocent people, which obviously was in breach of the law, we were careful not to descend heavily on the troops.

But a statement issued by the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) yesterday, in connection with the brutal assault on the civilian population, has pushed us to the wall. Part of the statement reads: “GAF wishes to state categorically that the military operation, which was sanctioned by the Military High Command, was NOT to avenge the killing of the soldier, but rather to fish out the perpetrators of the heinous crime.

“Following the operations at Ashaiman-Taifa and Tulaku, the military personnel picked up about 184 suspects, aged between 21 and 47 years old, and have since handed them over to the Military Police, who will subsequently hand them over to the Ghana Police Service for screening and further action.

“During the course of the swoop, the personnel seized 29 slabs and 57 mini slabs of suspected Indian Hemp and Amnesia respectively among other forms of narcotics.

The Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) also wishes to place on record that the swoop was not targeted at innocent civilians, but was an intelligence-led operation conducted at suspected hideouts of criminals and crime-prone areas in the general area.”

We found this statement, which confirms that the operation was sanctioned by the Military High Command, as not only an assault on our democracy, but a complete abuse of the fundamental human rights of the victims.

In the first place, the internal security of this country is in the hands of the police and not the army. The latter is only called to assist in security matters when the former is overwhelmed.

The army, therefore, has no right to deploy troops to torture people because one of their own has been killed, when it is the duty of the police to investigate the crime.

The killing of Trooper Imoro Sheriff is regrettable, but we believe he was not killed because he was a soldier.  He met his untimely death in the hands of criminals. The Chronicle was, therefore, expecting the GAF to have allowed the police to investigate and fish out these criminals to face the full rigours of the law.

Regrettably, the GAF rather took it upon itself to send troops to Ashaiman, without the apparent knowledge and sanction of the police, who are in charge of internal security, to beat up innocent people.

What has rankled us most is the fact that the army decided to detain these civilians in their custody without handing them over immediately to the police. Yet in the face of evidence available, the army is still insisting that they did not go to Ashaiman to seek revenge – that is preposterous.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians have suffered in the hands of criminal elements at Ashaiman, but when was the last time the GAF sent troops to the town to search and locate these criminals?

Clearly, the army is not a law unto itself as it is subject to the dictates of the 1992 Constitution.  The fact that the security outfit has the legal use of weapons and force does not mean it should be exercised capriciously.

The Chronicle is, therefore, appealing to the Commander in Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces to rein in his subordinates, because the Ashaiman brutalities are simply unconstitutional.

In the same way, we are also appealing to the police to set their investigation machinery in motion to locate and arrest the criminals who killed the soldier. Ashaiman has gained notoriety as a town that harbours criminals, and the police themselves are aware of this bare fact.

We suspect those committing these heinous crimes in the area are not only Ghanaians, because Ashaiman has become a cosmopolitan area. The Chronicle, nevertheless, insists that the killers of Trooper Imoro Sheriff must be arrested to send a strong signal to these criminal gangs operating in Ashaiman that the police will not spare them when caught.


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