It is a common practice in Ghana to see suspected criminals being paraded on television. These suspects are usually suspected of robbery or some form of heinous crime.
On August 25, 2017, the Madina Divisional Police Command arrested 28 Nigerians suspected of internet fraud. The police seized several electronic gadgets including laptops, mobile phones, and pen drives. The police said they arrested them upon a tip-off. The arrested individuals were paraded publicly. Videos and pictures of the parade show most of these individuals bare chested, most of them were wearing only boxer shorts.
As said earlier, this is a common practice in Ghana, suspects being paraded publicly. Most of the time these parades are identification parades which allow victims of crimes to identify perpetrators; suspected criminals are shown on T.V and mentioned on the radio, and in other media, as the public is invited to identify them.
Identification parades can be appreciated to some extent; although the basis for which the police arrest suspected criminals so that they can be identified need to be scrutinized. Yet, the motive of the parade is clear, to invite victims to help with investigations.
What is happening now is complete lawlessness, to say the least. In the Nigerian internet fraud case presented earlier, the motive was not to invite victims. It was a form of punishment. What was the goal of presenting suspects half naked? The police commander added in an interview with UTV that the suspects’ activities were destroying Ghana’s reputation and that they will not allow such activities to go on. On what basis did the police commander arrive at this conclusion?
The purpose of this article is not to look at the merit or demerits of the arrest. Still, some questions need to be asked. Did the police have a search warrant before it swooped the abode of the suspects? On what basis did the police arrest all the suspects, was it because they were in the same house?
The action of the police in this particular case is very worrying; their utterances are equally so. They forget two cardinal parts of the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana which says that “a person charged with a criminal offence shall be given a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court” and “a person charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved or has pled guilty.”
Is the police’s attempt to try suspects in the media fair hearing? Why should the police strip suspects half naked and present them on T.V? Didn’t the police, from their actions, presume the individuals guilty? The opening page of our Constitution says, “in exercise of our natural and inalienable right to establish a framework of government, which shall secure for ourselves, and posterity the blessings of liberty, equality of opportunity and prosperity; in a spirit of friendship and peace with all peoples of the world.” What is the spirit of friendship in the actions of the police toward our Nigerian brothers? The police were not dealing with terrorists. They were dealing with suspects of internet fraud. Therefore they should have acted with caution. The motive of their exhibition of the suspects is very suspect. The law must not just work; it must be seen to work, and the police should have known better. If the police have started acting this way toward foreigners, it will not be long when they start acting the same way toward citizens.
Another question that has to be asked is whether the 28 arrested individuals have been charged at all. The police parading suspects half naked on national television is as childish as it lawless.
WRITER: Kwaku Gyamfi