Board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has ranked Ghana’s Judiciary seventh out of 53 countries and fourth in terms of rule of law in its 2010 performance index of African countries.
The ranking has therefore elevated Ghana’s Judiciary as one of the foremost on the African continent in terms of judicial independence and rule of law. The Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood announced this at the 32rd Annual General Meeting of the Association of Magistrates and Judges of Ghana (AMJG) in Accra on Thursday.
This year’s meeting on the theme: “Building a Strong Judiciary –Performing Our Constitutional Mandate” is to deepen discussion on issues required by the Judiciary to discharge its duty as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution.
Mrs Justice Wood said Ghana should be proud of this achievement despite the challenges facing the Judiciary in its operations.
She said the Judiciary being instrumental for justice delivery and enforcement of the law, played a significant role in governance and the task of maintaining law and order as well as securing peace and stability.
Mrs Justice Wood stated that the Judiciary recently came under scrutiny for accountability and transparency, some of the criticisms had been genuinely frank, fair, legitimate and clearly well intentioned.
She said the fact that services of the Judiciary constituted public good, the institution could not remain insulated and detached from regular accountability demanded by legal and political institutions of State in emerging democracies.
Mrs Justice Wood said members of the Judiciary needed to understand that it was a public entity in which the general public had a stake in terms of transparency, efficiency and integrity. “Therefore as Chief Justice, I welcome constructive dialogue and informed suggestions that have the potential of helping the Judiciary develop and grow as a major institution of State,” she added.
Mrs Justice Wood said her administration was determined to build a trustworthy and robust judiciary and continue with projects initiated by her predecessors. She announced that the Judicial Council had never condoned judicial misconduct in any form and had endeavoured to promote the dignity and integrity of the institution.
“The Judiciary has never shirked its responsibilities in applying disciplinary measures against errant members as well as staff of the judicial service,” she added. Mr Justice Joseph Akamba, an Appeal Court Judge and President of the Association, called on judges to constantly research and be committed to learning and be abreast with the law.
He said judges must be competent and confident in the jurisdiction of the court, its procedures and substance of the law applicable to each case and nuances of the law of evidence.
Mr Justice Akamba said the spectre of corruption had become the single most weakening factor in the discharge of a judge’s constitutional mandate. He said complaints were not just about the payment of money to judges, but the attitudes and practices shown in court and within court premises to litigants.
Mr Justice Akamba said statistics from the complaints unit were disheartening and it was important that judges did not shy away from addressing the inconsonance that complaints about corruption brought to the judiciary. “What is saddening are the allegations of judges and magistrates working with staff members to engage in practices that show no commitment to delivery of justice,” he stated.
Mr Justice Akamba said sometimes it was sad to hear well-informed people questioning the stance of AMJG in demanding substantiation of wholesale accusations against the bench following the recent dismissals of two magistrates. “Sad because the airwaves are captured by people who have little or no understanding of basic attributes for the office they purport tobe holding and who sits in judgment over events,” he stated.
Mr Justice Akamba challenged people who had information about corrupt judges in the judiciary to come forward with their assertions to prosecute these judges.
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