Pressure group OccupyGhana has said it is appalled and disgusted by the use of brute force by the Ghana Police Service against some demonstrating lawyers a few days ago.
The police fired rubber bullets at the students and sprayed them with water cannons as the peaceful demonstration turned ugly.
They were on their way to the Jubilee House to present a petition to President Nana Akufo-Addo about the “restrictive” admission processes into the Ghana School of Law and to push for reforms in Ghana’s legal education system.
“OccupyGhana® is appalled by the brutal assault that the police meted out to unarmed and peacefully demonstrating law students and their sympathisers on Monday, October 7, 2019”, the group said in a statement.
“We have seen footages and photographs that show several infractions against the rule of law and of humaneness on the part of the Police. This Police high-handedness and brutality against students exercising nothing more than their constitutional right to demonstrate and air out their grievances makes a mockery of the democracy we claim to respect, and we wish to unequivocally announce our disgust with that turn of events and to condemn same in no uncertain terms”, the group added.
OCCUPYGHANA® PRESS STATEMENT
OCCUPYGHANA® CONDEMNS POLICE BRUTALITIES AGAINST DEMONSTRATING LAW STUDENTS AND DEMANDS REFORMS TO PROFESSIONAL LEGAL EDUCATION
OccupyGhana® is appalled by the brutal assault that the Police meted out to unarmed and peacefully demonstrating law students and their sympathisers on Monday, October 7, 2019. We have seen footages and photographs that show several infractions against the rule of law and of humaneness on the part of the Police. This Police high-handedness and brutality against students exercising nothing more than their constitutional right to demonstrate and air out their grievances makes a mockery of the democracy we claim to respect, and we wish to unequivocally announce our disgust with that turn of events and to condemn same in no uncertain terms.
We have closely studied the Police Statement on the matter which, to all intents and purposes, is a poor attempt to throw dust in the faces of Ghanaians concerning a true and accurate account of the day. For instance, how does the Police Service explain how the protestors somehow procured arsenals of stones to hurl at Police officers on the Independence Road stretch between the Canadian Consulate to the Golden Jubilee House? How is it possible, in 2019, for the police to call an exercise of the constitutional right to assembly “illegal” when police permits are not required to stage a demonstration, and the notice requirement in the Public Order Act can never morph into an unconstitutional demand for some kind of police permission?
We could ask a dozen questions about the Police Statement, which we find as offensive as we find their unwarranted abuse of power and their impunity in a civilised society governed by respect for human rights, human dignity, the rule of law and justice. And we wonder how Government can bear the news that many of these harmless student protestors reportedly found shelter at a foreign consulate from the atrocities of their country's own Police Service.
We repeat and remind the Police that the right to demonstrate is an inalienable right that requires absolutely no police approval or censure beyond notification. And no edifice, building or “zone" should exist which, having the benefit of public access roads, public traffic and public thoroughfare in whole or in part, cannot accept the presentation of petitions by unarmed and inoffensive demonstrators. No ground in this country is so sacred that it cannot tolerate the lawful exercise of unarmed students' rights to demonstrate.
We demand, at the very least an apology from the recently-confirmed Inspector General of Police who bears ultimate responsibility for this egregious display of brutishness. We also demand that all Commanding Officers who directly supervised, sanctioned and called for these barbaric attacks on innocent protestors be punished in accordance with the law.
PROFESSIONAL LEGAL EDUCATION
We must also emphatically state that the time is ripe to address the root cause of this matter: the inability of the state to provide sufficient facilities to enable law students from the various law faculties and law schools gain access to professional legal education. We cannot, as a people, grant accreditation for several law faculties and law schools to be opened and run, and then maintain the current size of the School of Law for the professional law course, a completely unjustified bottleneck and another evidence of our lack of planning.
It is a fact that the introduction of the entrance examinations and the erstwhile interviews remain a formalised knee-jerk reaction to a problem that has an obvious solution that we refuse to provide. Ghana is not an island. Several other countries have resolved this problem in a manner that allows prospective lawyers to be trained and given the opportunity to write the final bar exam, however often they may write it. There is nothing wrong with learning from others and adapting what we learn to suit our purposes.
The Government cannot absolve itself of blame in this regard. It is statute that created the General Legal Council. That statute gives the Council the power to regulate professional legal education, sometimes with the approval of the Attorney-General. We insist that the same legislative process should be used to fix this problem once and for all.
A country of almost 30 million people cannot be proud that its official roll of lawyers has just about 3,000 lawyers. A ratio of one lawyer to 10,000 citizens is highly anaemic, and any existing or new policy that unduly restricts access to any form of education, especially in a developing economy, is not forward-looking and should be jettisoned. The time for action on this matter is now, and this buck stops at the desk of the Government.
In conclusion, we demand of the Police Service, the General Legal Council and the Government of Ghana to be guided by the principles outlined in the Ghanaian constitution that all power emanates from the people and not the other way round.
Yours in the service of God and Country