The Right to Life

You have the right not to be killed intentionally, unless you are sentenced to death under Ghanaian law. The Ghanaian government has recently voted to abolish the death penalty, and will soon hold a referendum to let the people decide the issue.

Many ordinary people in Ghana continue to take justice into their own hands on behalf of their communities, often resorting to violence in the perceived absence of effective official state action. Take for example, this story.

One evening, a young man posed as a Good Samaritan assisted an elderly cocoa farmer in counting his money earned from the sale of the cocoa. The young man then tried to sneak off with a large quantity of money. After the farmer called out for help, an angry mob  pursued the thief and beat the young man to death.

In this case, the man was guilty of the crime, but in many cases of vigilantism or this so-called “people’s justice,” it can not be determined whether the victim was actually guilty or just caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

For example, Kwame, a fifty-five-year old herbalist was mistaken for a murderer by a group of about ten spectators arriving from a soccer match in a neighboring village. Kwame, who was with his son, had just stepped into the bushes to gather herbs to prepare medicine when someone proclaimed that a murderer was lurking in the bush. The deceased’s son escaped and reported the matter to the chief of the village.

Regardless of the guilt or innocence of the victim, vigilante justice is always wrong. Even if you are a thief you still have all the same rights as an innocent person. A thief has the right not to be killed intentionally, unless sentenced to death under Ghanaian law, the right to a fair trial and the right to dignity (freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment). When a thief is killed by an angry mob, these fundamental human rights are violated.