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Samson’s Take: Trial by ordeal is punished

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By article 15 of the Constitution, it is a violation of the dignity of a person to subject them to torture, cruel or other inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment or to any condition that detracts or is likely to detract from their dignity and worth as human beings.

Unfortunately, some Ghanaians have been doing these very same things prohibited by the law. The latest victim of the injustice and criminal act of trial by ordeal is 90-year-old Akua Denteh flogged to death in Kafaba in the Savannah Region.

She was declared a witch by a feared priestess and soothsayer named only as Fatima based in Yeji in the Bono East Region. The nation has been outraged and the case is getting special attention leading to arrests, and one can only pray that her killers will pay for their crime.

The law, generally, does not deal or concern itself with the metaphysical or spiritual which we (or a court) may not be capable of investigating. That’s why by section 315 of our criminal law punishes “a person who directs or controls or presides at a trial by ordeal” with up to ten years in jail, and punishes participants or observers in section 316 with up to three years.

A felony (murder punishable by death) was being committed and those people too had a duty to prevent it. The failure to exercise that duty to prevent it is a misdemeanour the law punishes in section 22 of the criminal law of Ghana.

It is heartwarming that the suspected architects have been charged with murder to suffer death if found guilty rather than as a crime of trial by ordeal which attracts not more than ten years jail term.

NGO’s like the Sanneh Institute and the Ark Foundation are doing the education to end such injustice but the State must dedicate attention to address this crime and mob injustice.

Samson Lardy ANYENINI
August 1, 2020


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