A Dawn Of Police-cum-Military Dictatorship?

The Ongoing Policy Of Shoot-and-Kill And The Publicly Display Of The Breeding Wounded Dead By The Police- cum- Military Is Uncivilized, Utterly Atrocious And Illegal And Must Be Condemned And Questioned…

The Samaritan Research Group

News Commentary And Analysis

Modern states; according to Green and Ward (2004:1), are responsible for killings and plunder on a scale that no ‘robber band’ could hope to emulate. Any attempt to quantify their crime, in the words of the law professors, is inevitably subject to enormous margins of error, but by adding up mid-range estimates of R.J. Rummel (1994), it is calculated that from 1900 to 1987, over 169 million people were murdered by governments. This excludes deaths in wars (about 35 million, an unknown proportion of which resulted from war crimes), judicial executions (other than those resulting from ‘show trials’) and killings of armed opponents or criminals. Besides these, these government officials, it is said, also make a major contribution to property crime that indeed, we dare point no fingers.

Thirty years ago- and onboard a ship of what seemed to be our frustrations, uncertainties and in looking for sacrificial-lambs as instant solutions to the said terrifying voyage, Ghana sailed itself on a dreadful waters of “victor’s justice”, where the winds of fears, intimidations and outright suspicions, gave way to brutalities, utterly atrocious and illegal instant justice and open killings- that we regrettably, registered our support. Today, the Ghanaian is again justifying shoot-and- kill policy as a final solution to its arm robbery and what Professor Mills has described as “contract killings” menace, as against the procedural rules as enshrined in our Constitution- this is SIMPLISTIC and FALSE. The police-cum-military owe the sate- and here, “Democratic Republic of Ghana”, a duty to apply professionalism to halt the ongoing blood flow in its purported war on arm robbery.

We of the Samaritan Research Group are not implying that the lives of the law-biding populace must be gambled with that of suspected arm robber who might come not only to rob and/or destroy, but also might maim and kill. Thus we are neither suggesting that our servicemen/women who risk their lives in defence of life and property, must in the face of “suspected enemy fire”, be arm-tied, nor allow themselves to be used as canon-foyer in their operations. JusticeGhana is concerned not only about the strategies and skills employed by our security forces in their missions but also the dignity of their suspected victims and innocent family members. Art 15(1) of our Constitution states that the dignity of all persons shall be inviolable- this included undoubtedly, alleged criminals.

The recent gunning down of yet another alleged armed robber- identified as Osmanu Gado, in a pool of blood on Sunday, 2 August 2009, at Akrokeri near Obuase, in what Ghana News Agency quoted the said police-cum-military patrol team as an exchange of fire, and the supporting argument by one Mr Mahmud Khalid- the Upper West Regional Minister, has tragically exposed the simplistic policy that seems to be secretly adopted by Ghana Police Service in collaboration with a regime that extols the rule of law. Much as the police and the army ought to have right to self-defence, it could be suggested that they must be ahead of the criminals through effective policing that comes with reliable intelligence gathering appraisals and co-ordination with the populace to embark on effective arrest. The Police’s suggested shoot-outs with criminals seem to be misleading.

Indeed, Jessop (1982) argues that the state does not always or even in the majority of cases act as a unitary force but rather a band of institutions which do not necessarily share a single set of interest and goals. Yet, in most countries, it is said that some particular sub-units, being it from the armed forces or the police, will adopt deviant goals that might have the blessings of governments. Thus, whereas the operative goals of an organisation- which need not be the same as the individual motive of the actor, there could be unquestionably certain instances that its member might truly work together to achieve and which may or may not reflect the goals the organisation publicly proclaims?

Punch (2003) makes a clearer illustration by suggesting that a soldier in war may commit rape purely for reasons of personal gratification …. Yet, this could contribute to organisational goals such as demoralising the enemy or promoting ‘ethnic cleansing’. Thus, the organisational goal for example, may be of little importance to the soldier himself, but may be an important reason for his comrades and superiors to turn a blind eye to his action. On the other hand, if the soldier in question is promptly court-martialled, as required by the organization’s ethics and principles, it may be inferred that he acted contrary to an important organisational goal- thus the army’s goal of presenting itself as the true liberator of the local population, and here, proactive national defence?

So far, the Police Service has shown little or “no sign of professionalism” in its efforts in combating arm-robbery and the “contract killings”. Thus the on-going policy is wrong and illegal and must be condemned and questioned not only by government but also, all civil societies. The holding of firearm in itself is not illegal in Ghana and where one is deemed to have faulted the law and is duly caught, the penalty is not summary execution by firing squad. Yes, judging from the rampant arm robbery in the country that we all worry about, the deterrent school of taught might have persuasively argued that the current controversial policy is the only language potential criminals could better comprehend.

As for example, Mr. Mahmud Khalid, is quoted (GNA, 4 August 2009) to have said on Thursday, 30 July 2009, at Wa. That armed robbers deserve the “shoot to kill” response they were currently getting from the military and the police personnel because criminals never have respect for the rights of other people. “How can criminals have rights,” he is said to have queried. From this premise, the minister appeals to human rights activists to refrain from criticizing the methods being used by the security agencies to confront armed robbers, arguing that “we should not endorse that only criminals have rights”?

In arriving at that “verdict”, the Honourable Minister, in the opinion of JusticeGhana, appears not only to have erred under Art 12 of the 1992 Constitution- Fundamental Human Rights and Freedom of individuals that we are afraid, applies equally to suspected criminals, but also under Art 19(1) which states that a person charged ((or suspected??)) with criminal offence shall be given a fair hearing within reasonable time by a court. Sub-section 2(c) clarifies that a person, and here the alleged arm robbe?r, be presumed to be innocent until he is proved or has pleaded guilty; and before a competent court of law?

Yes. So, it is wrong both for the police and the minister to coerce any suspected wrongdoer(s) as criminal(s) and worse of it all, to be shot-and-kill, where s/he has not been charged, tried and found guilt of such offence under the laws of Ghana. Art 13(1) provides that no person shall be deprived of his life internationally except in the exercise of the execution of sentence of a court in respect of criminal offence under the laws of Ghana which has been convicted. Although Ghana faces what appear to be dreadful arm robberies that seem to take equally valuable lives, the law gives no blanket cover to close-circuit killings to anyone- here, to our forces, who through their unique training and know-how, ought to have been able to subdue suspected criminals with minimum force?

Yes, Major-General Peter Augustine Blay- the Chief of Defence Staff, is reported to have told GNA(4 Aug 2009) on Tuesday that the Ghana Armed Forces had sharpened its intelligence and tactical strategies to deal with the menace of armed robbery and that Ghana will fail in her quest for peace and economic prosperity if armed robbery persists. Hence, the formation of the Police Service-cum- military anti-armed robbery squad- dubbed, “Operation Come Life,” designed to clamp down armed robbery in the country.

But as it stands now, the military-and-the-police have triumphed in show-casing just the killings of suspected arm robbers who lay flatly dead on their backs and with their chins facing up in the skies to the Ghanaian and indeed the world. What were they robbing and in whose house and at what range were they shot? Assuming that the suspects had been fired, at a longer distance(s) in shoot-outs, the possibility of their instant deaths wouldn’t have been forgone conclusion? The question then is: at what range and under which circumstances and environment had the police-cum-the military applied force as the only option? Arguing that servicemen were professional marksmen and women; could the suspected robbers not have been fired at lower parts so as to be rendered powerless?

Conservatively argued, the effective range of AK-47 ((7.62 mm round)) assault rifle- often displayed by our forces as the operational guns of suspected criminals and which is also used by our forces, is 300 meters and has bullet initial speed of 715m/s (metres per second). The magazine capacity is 30 cartridges and with automatic rate of fire of 600rpm (rounds per minute) as compared to practical rate of fire of 40-100rpm. Indeed a drawback to the new version AK-74 ((5.45×39 mm round)), that seems smaller and lighter and has an effective range of 650 meters, as compared to 450 meter for M-4 and G3 assault rifle produced in 7.62 mm and 5.56 mm calibres and charged in a 20-round box magazine. The muzzle velocity of G3 commonly used by the Ghana armed forces is 800m/s and has an effective range of 400 metres. The rate of fire is selectable between single-shot semi-automatic and yes, fully automatic at a rate of 600 rounds-per-minute.

Maj-Gen Blay says that he appreciates the efforts and the good works that his men and the police are doing and that Government would provide all the logistics to enable them to succeed in the war against the robbers. “When we fight armed robbery it is a fight for the safety of Ghanaians and the foreign investor,” he is quoted as saying. This is reinforced by Lt-Col. Abraham Yeboa Nsia- Commanding Officer of 5th Battalion, who also had this to echo: “the armed robber had no legitimacy to carry a gun, break into people’s home and kill.” Yes, this is true. Lt-Col. Nsia is also right in reminding the soldiers not to engage in any criminal activities or be misled into unlawful venture in the course of their operations because the law would not spare anyone who behaved unprofessionally?

It is unclear whether by using the unprofessional he is inferring to accomplice to arms trade or the conduct of this operation which appears to be motivated by “undue haste of trigger-happy” snipers, whose main mission had been to get their suspected targets dead or alive? We of the Samaritan Research Group are less informed about the operational strategies and armaments at the disposal of the police-cum-the-army in its “self-declared war on arm robbery”, let alone the intentions of the higher command- and here, the commander-in-chief of the Ghana Armed Forces. What JusticeGhana knows is that AK-47 is well been known for its close combat effectiveness. It has an effective and dangerous range of 300m/800m respectively. Meaning, while the life of a stationary soldier could be deadly at an open range of 300m, at 800m (weather/environmental conditions considered), the on-the-run panting arm robber might arguably, less combat effective.

Indeed Mr. Khalid is right in asserting that security was a vital prerequisite for the development of the nation, and that government would do everything possible to ensure that all law- abiding citizens slept soundly and conduct their daily activities in peace and tranquillity and that they are not saying that the police-cum-the-military should kill at will but if the armed robbers resist, they should also meet them with force. Yet, he fell short not only in suggesting civil mechanisms put in place by government to combat this menace which, surprisingly, he thinks brute force could be the only solution but also failure to question the number of bullets the officers fired and at what positions and range. No one is told that the police/military had been issued with a valid carte-blanche to shoot-and-kill on suspicion; so, the efficacy of their actions ought to be investigated.

Art 15(2) of the 1992 Constitution states that no person shall, whether or not he is arrested, restricted or detained, be subjected to- (a) torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; (b) any other condition that detracts or is likely to detract from his dignity and worth as a human being. Sub-section (3) makes it abundantly clear that a person who has not been convicted as criminal offence shall not be treated as a convicted person and shall be kept separately from convicted persons. Thus even where one is charged and convicted of higher treason or arm robbery no matter the number of his dead victims, vis-à-vis his crime, the constitutional imputations of dignity and worth as a human could suggest that the convicted must be prayed for before execution- the dead body will not be cast into zoo or the sea to be fed by beasts.

In our present case, the Police allege that Gado, had been on wanted list for years, yet he was neither arrested, cautioned nor charged, for him to put up his defence or disclose the source of the weapons allegedly found on him in the course of the suspected robbery which, had he been overpowered alive and convicted for this offence, in our present democratic trials, wouldn’t have attracted summary execution. Art 13(1) states that no person shall be deprived of his life internationally except in the exercise of the execution of sentence of a court in respect of criminal offence under the laws of Ghana which has been convicted. So, we are told Gado was killed on self-defence. Yes, Art 13(2) pre-empt that a person shall not be held to have deprived another person of his life in contravention of clause (1) of this article if that other person dies as the result of a lawful act of war or if that other person dies as the result of use of force to such an extent as is reasonable in the particular circumstance. But had our police been rational at all times?

Admittedly, modern nation-states, as Green and Ward submit, are best understood as the creations of coercive and ‘self-seeking entrepreneurs’ when it comes to the matter of national security. This is true if one considers Art 13(2) that arms security agents with some sort of authority and immunities (a) for the defence of any person from violence or for the defence of property; or (b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained; or © for the purposes of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny; or (d) in order to prevent the commission of a crime by that person. Yet it is argued that over a long historical period (16th -20th century), the most successful states, have been those that ‘developed a durable interest in promoting the accumulation of capital’ and accepted certain restrictions on their power as the price of organising their populations efficiently, here through education, training and job creation.

Yes, armed robbery is a terrible crime as it involves the use of “deadly weapons”. In the sociological context, the word crime is defined as the breach of a rule or law for which some governing authority or force may ultimately prescribe a punishment. Yet the causes of crime and here arm robbery could be manifold. For example, the driven egos of most men to satisfy inordinate desires of their demanding loved wives and/or girlfriends, not forgetting the unnecessary display of wealth by the affluent and rich, are said to be the prompts of the poor to be jealous and to embark on dreadful venture that often lead to untimely deaths or arrests. As the Socialist UK forcefully argues, poverty and unemployment tear people’s lives apart, wrecking their personal relationships and deepening people’s sense of alienation, so making it much more likely that they may commit crime. Thus, as in our case, where leadership takes little interest in the provision of social services and fast unfortunately so, labour not in the welfare of poorer families through tax relief and income support, could the weakest and most vulnerable people like disadvantaged Gados in society, not surely end up being criminalised as a consequence?

We of the Samaritan Research Group believe that with the institutional and legal machinery at the disposal of the State and its agents, Government could be able and indeed proactive in compelling not only individuals to conform to behavioural codes in a civilised manner but also must cast the national security net in deep waters rather than brute force and summary judgements that history had vindicated the reformist school as counter-productive at least, where Ghana had openly killed and maimed, just to disdain bribery and corruption- the police cannot just be “self-justifying angels” in these killings.


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