The Human Rights Division of the High Court in Accra, yesterday restrained the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) from restricting Mr Sammy Crabbe, the Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) or any other Ghanaian access to a counsel when they are invited for interrogation.
In its ruling to grant a perpetual injunction against the national security organisation, the court, presided over by Mr Justice U.P. Dery, held that it was unconstitutional for the BNI to deny Mr Crabbe or anybody access to a lawyer when in detention, a meeting or a “friendly conversation” while in the offices of the BNI.
Mr Crabbe sued the BNI and Attorney-General (A-G) for violating his human rights by seizing his mobile phone and also not allowing him access to a counsel when he was invited by the BNI in June, this year, for interrogation on issues relating to the Ghana International Airlines.
Mr Crabbe, a businessman, sought a declaration that the BNI's refusal to allow him access to counsel was unconstitutional and infringed on his human rights and, therefore, sought a perpetual injunction to restrain the respondents.
But the court struck out the suit against the BNI and indicated that it was not the proper body to be sued in proceedings involving the state, since the A-G was the constitutionally mandated person to sue and be sued on behalf of the state.
Mr Crabbe had argued that he was invited to the BNI office on June 11, 2009 without any reasons given him but the respondents countered that his invitation was based on public interest, since the issue bothered on the national airline.
The court held that the seizure of the phones of the applicant and also not allowing him access to a counsel during his interrogation were in breach of provisions in Article 14 of the 1992 Constitution on the right of accused persons to have access to counsel.
According to the court, by not informing the applicant why he was arrested and given a chance to have access to his lawyer, the respondent did not comply with the due process of law and in accordance with the provisions under Article 14.
This is the second time since August 8, 2009, that the court has faulted the BNI for acts that it described as unconstitutional.
In the first instance, the court ordered the BNI to return the passport of a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Akwasi Osei-Adjei, to him because it did not have the power to seize the passport without resort to the due process of law.
Mr Osei-Adjei sued the Director of the BNI and the Attorney-General (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.
Source: Stephen Sah/graphic
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