Brutalization of Ashaiman citizens by unprofessional military personnel
1. On or about March 4, 2023, the nation woke up to sad news about the stabbing of a young soldier which resulted in his untimely death.
2. In response to that reprehensible act, a more barbaric act of savagery was perpetrated by a marauding force of military personnel, supposedly undertaking an “intelligence-led operation” sanctioned by the Military High Command of Ghana’s Armed Forces and the Government of Ghana.
3. This act of brutality, savagery and unprofessionalism, committed in a Rambo-style revenge attack, was unleashed on unsuspecting victims and citizens of Ghana.
4. In addition to that, 184 persons were arrested in a swoop conducted as part of the so-called “intelligence-led operation” for screening by the military police and to be handed over to the Ghana Police Service (GPS).
5. Much to the dismay of Ghanaians, the GPS, whose functions have once again been usurped and side-stepped by the military, has remained silent. This is in spite of the fact that, the GPS itself had earlier initiated investigations which have even led to the arrest of some suspects.
6. One would have expected that the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to issue a statement to counter that of the military and assert its jurisdiction over internal security matters. Indeed, the police can ask for assistance from the military where it feels overwhelmed and in need of extra support. This is not what happened here, according to the statement issued by the Military High Command.
7. Moreover, the incident that took place at Ashaiman was not a conflict-zone situation or an operation being carried out by the military which faced an obstruction in the performance of their duties and needed extra support. The military trooper who died was on a private mission, to visit his mother and or girlfriend. Moreover, the body was not taken away by his assailants. So, what is the justification for the military to take over the functions of the GPS?
8. Perhaps we have failed to realise that we live in a democratic society guided by the rule of law, and not a military regime where the law of the jungle prevails.
9. The statement issued by the Deputy Minister of Defence in support of the operation, indeed, is not only unfortunate but irresponsible. In a more mature democracy, this should have led to his resignation.
10. An intelligence-led operation cannot turn into a swoop operation. An intelligence-led operation is supposed to minimise risk and harm to people who are not the targets of the operations. It is built around the assessment and management of risks. Intelligence-led operations are surgical, clinical and informed by intelligence which would normally lead to the operation being as covert as possible and sometimes even taking place without the knowledge of the public. It originated as a rejection of the “reactive” swoops which the police had been employing. It is done by professionals, based on reliable and tested intelligence, backed by technology.
11. What happened at Ashaiman cannot be intelligence-led operation. It is unprofessional, barbaric, violative of the rights of the individuals caught in the swoop and the rights of the community as a whole. It is an act committed by unintelligent soldiers who know nothing about intelligence-led operations.
12. By brutalising those victims, the soldiers have declared them guilty of a crime they did not commit. It constitutes an extra-judicial act and violates the right to being assumed innocent until the contrary is proved.
13. I invite the Minister for Defence to issue a statement condemning this dastardly act committed by the soldiers and to dissociate himself and the ministry from the statement made by his deputy.
14. The IGP of the GPS to also invited to issue a statement clarifying the situation and asking for those who committed these acts of brutalisation to be brought for questioning by the GPS and prosecuted for their crimes.
15. I also invite journalists who have interviewed some of the victims to provide their contacts so that assistance can be given them on how to institute action to demand compensation for the violation of their fundamental human rights.
By Prof. Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua