Court Orders BNI: Release former Minister’s Passport

A case Mr Akwasi Osei-Adjei, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, filed against the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) was bolstered yesterday, when the Human Rights Division of the High Court dismissed an application filed by the Attorney-General (A-G) to stay the execution of the order to the BNI to release his passport to him. The court, presided over by Mr Justice U.P. Derry, described the argument by the A-G that if the former minister was given his passport, there was the likelihood that the would interfere with the investigations as untenable. It said that if the application succeeded, Mr Osei Adjei could be asked to hand in his passport anytime and in view of that the decision of the superior court could not make its order that the passport should be released nugatory. According to the court, it was the Court of Appeal which could determine the correctness or otherwise of its judgement and if the appeal would render its order nugatory, then an application for stay of execution ought to be granted. However, in the instance, the court was of the view that that was not the issue, hence the dismissal of the application. The court had 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 sued 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 mandated 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 state institution whose acts were done on behalf of the Republic and, therefore, was not properly sued. Arguing the motion, the Deputy A-G and Minister of Justice, Mr Barton Oduro, urged the court to stay the execution of its order until the determination of an appeal, which had good grounds of success. He said the nature of issues such as the instant one did not deal only with an individual but the entire citizenry, who are 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.