On the 30th of May, 2017, we woke up to the gruesome news that a Captain in the Ghana Army had been lynched by Citizens of a certain town. Several videos have emerged showing Citizens committing the dastardly act. The most shocking of them all is the part of the video that shows a woman standing over the lynched body of the Captain and lighting a match to burn his mutilated body. A lot of us are outraged by it and many are shocked at the sheer cruelty. I was not surprised. I have been writing and speaking on mob injustice for many years. I was also not surprised because the citizens who are outraged now about the dastardly act, have either committed a similar act, watched others commit a similar act without lifting a finger to stop or they have given their approval for such an act with the usual rationalization that thieves are equally evil and a nuisance to our society.
Today, we shall look at Chapter 5 of the 1992 Constitution and select a few Articles therein that speak about Human Rights. The first would be Article 13, Clause 1 which states, ‘‘no person shall be deprived of his life intentionally except in the exercise of the execution of a sentence of the Court in respect of a criminal offense under the Laws of Ghana of which he has been convicted’’. What this means is that it is only the Court of Law that can pronounce death on a man. That even the Court of Law can only pronounce death after the accused person has been charged with an offense and convicted of the offense and the sentence for that offense is the death of the accused. No other person or persons, regardless of the rationalization they have, in spite of the pain that may have been occasioned them by an act of a criminal, can choose to take the laws into his own hands and take the life of a human being.
Another important Article is Article 15, Clauses (2) (A and B) and they state as follows, ‘‘no person shall, whether or not he his arrested, restricted or detained, be subjected to:
- ‘‘Pain, torture or any other cruel or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’’.
- ‘‘Any other condition that detracts or is likely to detract from his dignity and worth as a human being’’. In the video, the people beat up the Captain until he died. In essence, they tortured him. They took away his dignity by stripping him naked and even at his death, the pictures show that he had been violated and totally undignified. Shortly after this, reports were given that the Military had descended on the town. Soon thereafter, pictures began to emerge of the Military either exacting vengeance or conducting investigations to identify the perpetrators. Whichever way you look at it, you cannot deny the fact that the town folk has also suffered some form of abuse. Much as I am against the lynching of the Captain, I am also against any sort of brutalization of the town folk. What the Police need to do is to arrest the Perpetrators who lynched the Captain and subject them to the full rigors of the Law. Speaking of the Police, it is little wonder that the Army resorted to carrying out the investigations by themselves. The police have acted incompetently in similar matters over the years. There has not been even one instance where a person involved in mob injustice has been arrested and prosecuted. The Police have always looked away and people have been emboldened to commit such dastardly acts.
Our final Article will be Article 19, (1) (c), it says ‘‘a person charged with a criminal offense shall be given a fair hearing within a reasonable time by the Court’’. Article 19 (2)(C) perhaps is the jurisprudence that underpins the philosophy of our criminal law and it states ‘‘that a person charged with a criminal offense shall be presumed to be innocent until it is proven or he has pleaded guilty’’. Thus, until the Court goes through a trial process to prove the accused guilty or unless the accused person pleads guilty himself, he is to be presumed innocent. The import of this is that whenever a person is accused of a crime whether he is an armed robber, a mobile phone thief etc., that person is innocent and should therefore not be touched by any person. The painful reality is that even if the accused person was sent to Court and convicted for the crime that he was accused him of, the sentence would not have been death but a few years in prison. How can it be that a person who steals a mobile phone, for instance, is beaten to death? The injustice of such mob behavior has its foundation in the fact that most of those who participate in the lynching did not see the person they had accused committing the crime. They only jump to the fray because someone told them. But we know people lie and lie every day. We also know there can be mistaken identity. Therefore you contributed to killing a human being simply because someone said they saw them committing the crime.
Consider this, what if the Captain and the many people who have been lynched were your brothers and friends.
Do we honestly believe that all these people needed to die? Would you not have at least wished the mob asked the person to state his side of the story? What if it is the case of mistaken identity?
Who made you a Judge of Human Life? Are you not a Christian who believes in the sanctity and the forgiveness of sin?
These are the questions that I ask myself every day but fail to get answers to. How can so much wickedness and cruelty reside in our hearts yet claim to be Christians?