The Court presided over by Mr. Emmanuel Essandoh held that the High Court is clothed to tackle issues of human rights abuses and that as a circuit court, its hands were tied to grant bail.
The Court gave its ruling when the Attorney General (AG) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) produced the 12 suspects who have been held in custody for nine days without being sent to court.
The non-appearance of the 12 suspects before the court within the 48-hour rule, constitutes a breach of fundamental human rights. At today’s sitting, 11 out of 12 people appeared in court. Dr. Samuel Bugri, an 80-year Retired Medical Doctor, who is among the suspects, is said to be ill and was on admission.
On January 4, this year the same court ordered the AG and IGP to produce the suspects before it following an application for bail made on behalf of the suspect’s lawyers.
Lawyers had argued that the 12 suspects have been in custody for the past nine days without putting them before the court.
However, when the state appeared in court, Ms. Vivian Osei -Tutu, a Senior Attorney from the AG’s Department, opposed the bail application and relied on the averments and attachments of the affidavit in opposition.
Ms. Osei–Tutu recounted that the issue of human rights was solely dealt with by the High Courts.
According to her, the Circuit Court lacked the requisite jurisdiction to deal with any form or nature of the matter.
She said the Ghana Police Service had written to the Chief Justice to constitute a High Court because the High Court was on vacation.
According to her, the matter happened in Bawku in the Upper East Region, the Circuit Court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter adding that “the proper forum should be the High Court.”
She recalled that despite the imposition of a curfew and a restraining order, the 12 suspects went ahead to hold the funeral of a late chief as well as install a new chief although there was one.
“Given the nature of this case, the breach of peace and security in Bawku would result in anarchy when accused persons are granted bail.
Mr Martin Kpebu who led a team of defense lawyers noted that the issue of jurisdiction had been blown away by a Supreme Court decision.
Mr. Kpebu recounted that the 48-hour rule of producing suspects before the court had no jurisdictional issues.
“We are not dealing with the criminal matters here. This is a special application court subjected to the Chief Justice’s directives. Accused persons have nothing to do with volatility in Bawku. The issue of volatility is a figment of imagination,” Defense Counsel said.
According to Mr. Kpebu, the suspects, including sub-chiefs, an Agric Officer, a student, a mother, a retired medical doctor, and a driver, were being escorted by the Military and none of them were arrested in Bawku.
“If it was a case of a restraining order, the suspects should be held for contempt of court,” counsel argued. We are ready to sign an undertaking that we are not going to Bawku when granted bail.
Mr. Kpebu held that the Chief Justice had made it clear that Registrars could impanel courts.
He, therefore, prayed the Court to grant suspects bail as “they have not caused any war in Bawku and they have not displayed any unruly behavior. They would also not abscond when granted bail.”
The suspects were arrested by the Police and kept in detention for their alleged involvement in the Bawku Chieftaincy disturbances that broke out last Monday.
The alleged disturbances led to the loss of lives and property.
There were reports of sporadic shootings in an attempt to perform the funeral rites of a chief who died 41 years ago.
The suspects are Issahaku Barkin, Samuel Abdul Rahman, Seidu Mohammed Saani, Richard Amevor, Nantoggman Kwami, Iddirusu Shaibu, Nawam Osman Nabia, Inusah Belko, Abdulai Nandong Dana, Naa Tampuri, and Dr. Samuel Bugri.