Police, soldiers and local authority taskforce were in the news, seen and reported caning people and administering various forms of sanctions when COVID-19 struck. They stopped ‘trotros’ and brought people down ordering them to sweep and gather litter as punishment for not wearing masks or breaching lockdown orders.
This week, some police officers were reported to have arrested people at a party on allegation that they were lesbians. Photographs clearly identified as taken by the La Nkwantanang-Madina Municipal Assembly have started circulating on social media. They are images of armed and cane-wielding police ordering pedestrians to kneel down in the sand in the sun and raise their hands or hold their ears ostensibly as punishment for not using a footbridge.
I do not know for how long they and those made to sweep are subjected to this. What I do know is that no security officer or institution is permitted by Ghana law to administer any form of punishment to anybody suspected of or caught committing a crime. If someone breaches particular COVID-19protocols, the law dictates exactly what must happen and the sanction does not include caning or being ordered by police to sweep in public.
What offence are the supposed lesbians charged with when there is no such offence in Ghana law? It is difficult to understand why residents and users of that Madina road held demonstrations demanding speedy work on those footbridges as people got killed crossing the road, and yet refuse to use them now. But assuming they broke any law by the reckless conduct, the police is equally being lawless in its conduct.
The Assembly may pass by laws by which spot fines may be taken from the irresponsible bunch. But remember your job is to enforce law not break it. It is in your own interest to act lawfully because once you overstep your legal mandate, you are on a frolic of your own, stripped of the law’s protection as officers when trouble comes.
The power granted by law to you to use reasonable force in effecting an arrest does not include license to punish suspects. Even in effecting arrest, it is not for nothing that the law allows people to resist unlawful arrests – i.e. when you fail to follow the law in making an arrest. You are committing the offence of assault when you cane people like you are doing.
It is not for nothing that even a court of law cannot order people found guilty of a crime to do things not permitted by law. The constitutional injunction is that you must not violate the dignity of any person. Let’s all follow the law to protect the democracy. That’s your legal light.
NOTE: The author, Samson Lardy Anyenini is a Senior Partner of the A-PARTNERS @ LAW firm. He is an award winning broadcast journalist working with Joy FM. He won the Best Journalist for 2019 Ghana Institute of Journalists (GIJ) Annual Awards.