The Human Rights Division of the High Court would on September 15, 2009, give its ruling on whether to stay the execution of its order to the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) to return the passport of Mr Akwasi Osei-Adjei, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, to him.
The court, presided over by Mr Justice U.P. Dery, fixed the date last Thursday, after the Attorney-General’s (A-Gs) Department had moved a motion to that effect.
The court on Tuesday, August 11, 2009, ruled that the BNI did not have the power to seize the passport of the former minister, adding that the action violated his fundamental human rights because it did not follow the due process of law.
Mr Osei-Adjei said the Director of the BNI and the A-G for the seizure of his passport and described the action as “flagrantly unlawful and a palpable violation” of his human rights.
He sought an order directed at the Director of the BNI to release his passport unconditionally but the A-G’s Department held a different view and said the detention of Mr Osei-Adjei’s passport was on the grounds that the BNI was managed under the Security and Intelligence Agencies Act (Act 526) to investigate him.
The court struck out the suit against the Director of the BNI, saying that the functions of the BNI made it a sate institution whose acts were done on behalf of the Republic and, therefore, was not properly sued.
It said in civil proceedings which the state or its agency was involved, the A-G was the rightful body to be sued.
Arguing the motion, the Deputy A-G and Minister of Justice, Mr Barton Osuro, urged the court to stay the execution of its order until the determination of an appeal, which had good grounds of success.
He said in issues such as the instant one, their nature did not deal only with an individual but the entire citizenry who were the taxpayers.
Mr Oduro said the former minister was being investigated for his role in the importation of some rice from India and that he was made aware of the reason for his invitation by the BNI and the subsequent seizure of his passport.
The former minister, he said, could, therefore, not claim ignorance that nothing of the sort had taken place.
According to him, the former minister traveled outside the country in February to India at a time he was not a minister to meet with that country’s Foreign Minister, with whom he dealt with in respect of the rice importation.
According to the deputy A-G, if the former minister was given his passport there was the likelihood that he would interfere with the investigations.
“Where there is reasonable suspicion that the applicant can interfere with the process, his personal liberties can be curtailed,” he said, and quoted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that as much as the rights of an individual were concerned, they did not override that of others.
He said the passport did not belong to the former minister and that the state could demand its possession anytime.
Counsel for the former minister, Mr Godfred Dame, in his response opposed the application describing it as malicious and unmeritorious without any bearing on the law and facts.
He said the ruling of the court was that there was a procedure which had to be followed in seizing the passport but that, had not been followed. He said the personal liberties of the individual under Article 14 of the Constitution of Ghana could not be curtailed without resort to the due process and sanction of the courts.
Mr Dame said his client had neither been restricted by any court nor had he been charged before any court, while at the time that his passport was seized, the former minister had not even been cautioned.
Source: Daily Graphic
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