OccupyGhana condemns arrest of protesters

OccupyGhana condemns arrest of protesters

In the wake of Thursday's 'Occupy Jubilee House' demonstration, civil society group OccupyGhana has issued a condemnation of the arrests made during the event. 

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The organization asserted that these detentions constituted a direct infringement on the demonstrators' fundamental rights to freely express themselves and gather.

"In a democratic society, we firmly uphold the belief that the right to peaceful protest is a fundamental pillar of freedoms of expression and assembly," stated OccupyGhana in a release on Friday. "These rights, enshrined in the Constitution, should be unwaveringly upheld and respected by all state institutions."

The group further contended that the police should have explored alternative, less confrontational means of managing the situation. They argued that the manner in which the arrests were carried out raises legitimate questions about the appropriateness of the response by law enforcement agencies.

"It is important to note that these arrests took place during a time when potential traffic disruptions would have been minimal," they pointed out. "Furthermore, we are reliably informed that there was no court injunction served to the demonstrators, indicating that their right to protest remained fully protected under the law."

OccupyGhana is now demanding a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the protesters' arrests, emphasizing the importance of upholding justice and safeguarding the rights of peaceful demonstrators. The group also urged the police to adhere to the rule of law and respect the constitutional rights of all citizens.

"In the interest of nurturing a democratic society where dissenting voices are not merely tolerated but celebrated and respected, we call upon all stakeholders, including the Ghana Police Service and the government, to engage constructively with citizens exercising their constitutional rights," they urged.

"We are informed that those who were arrested have now been released, which is a positive development," the statement added.

OccupyGhana cited a Supreme Court ruling from approximately 30 years ago in the case of "NEW PATRIOTIC PARTY v INSPECTOR-GENERAL OF POLICE," which upheld the fundamental freedom of assembly, including the freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations. They argued that provisions in the former Public Order Decree, which required a prior police permit to demonstrate, were inconsistent with the current Constitution.

"The situation where the statutory requirement to now notify and cooperate with the police is being interpreted, applied and enforced as a de facto permit to demonstrate is unconstitutional and must give way to a more nuanced, liberal and permissive understanding of the constitutional rights of citizens to peacefully assemble and express their views," they asserted.

On Thursday, the police arrested 49 demonstrators who had joined hundreds in an attempt to picket at the Jubilee House, the seat of government. These arrests occurred at the 37 Military Trotro Station, where the demonstrators had convened for their planned protest. 

The protestors are advocating for reforms aimed at reducing the cost of living, curbing corruption, and enhancing governance. 

The police have stated that the Jubilee House is a security installation, and are thus in discussions with the organizers regarding a potential change in location for future picketing.

Read the entire statement below;

OCCUPYGHANA CONDEMNS ARRESTS OF PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATORS

Our ref: OG/2023/023

OCCUPYGHANA PRESS STATEMENT

Accra, 22 September 2023

OCCUPYGHANA CONDEMNS ARRESTS OF PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATORS

OccupyGhana, in resolute advocacy for good governance, the rule of law, and the protection of civil liberties, strongly voices its concerns regarding the recent arrests of peaceful demonstrators by the Ghana Police on a public holiday, who were subsequently reported to be ‘processed’ for unlawful public gathering.

In a democratic society, we firmly uphold the belief that the right to peaceful protest is a fundamental pillar of freedoms of expression and assembly. These rights, enshrined in the Constitution, should be unwaveringly upheld and respected by all state institutions.

The recent arrests have raised serious questions about the appropriateness of the response by law enforcement agencies. Instead of opting for peaceful dialogue and cooperation with the demonstrators, the police chose to resort to arrests. It is important to note that these arrests took place during a time when potential traffic disruptions would have been minimal. OccupyGhana firmly asserts that alternative, less confrontational approaches could and should have been pursued to effectively manage the situation.

Furthermore, we are reliably informed that there was no court injunction served to the demonstrators, indicating that their right to protest remained fully protected under the law.

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About 30 years ago, the Supreme Court held in NEW PATRIOTIC PARTY v INSPECTOR-GENERAL OF POLICE, in relation to the fundamental freedom of assembly including the freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations, that provisions in the erstwhile Public Order Decree that required a prior police permit to demonstrate were inconsistent with the current Constitution. The situation where the statutory requirement to now notify and cooperate with the police is being interpreted, applied and enforced as a de facto permit to demonstrate is unconstitutional and must give way to a more nuanced, liberal and permissive understanding of the constitutional rights of citizens to peacefully assemble and express their views.

We are informed that those who were arrested (which should not have happened in the first place) have now been released, which is a positive development.

OccupyGhana implores the Ghana Police to uphold the rule of law and show due respect for the constitutional rights of all citizens. We call for a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding these arrests to ensure justice is served and the rights of peaceful demonstrators are diligently safeguarded.

In the interest of nurturing a democratic society where dissenting voices are not merely tolerated but celebrated and respected, we call upon all stakeholders, including the Ghana Police Service and the government, to engage constructively with citizens exercising their constitutional rights. Together, let us ensure that such incidents do not recur in the future.

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Our firm commitment remains rooted in our mission to advocate for transparency, accountability and the unwavering protection of civil liberties in Ghana.

In the interest of God and Country.

-ENDS-

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