It was a murder case at the Human Rights Court. The trial Judge was Essel Mensah J. Tiger knew neither the accused nor his deceased victim. But we wanted to test the waters to see if it was possible to influence the case with money
Undercover In ‘Ghana In The Eyes of God’ (7)
OF MY LORD ESSEL
… When Human Rights Are For Sale To The Highest Bidder
Anas Aremeyaw Anas Reports: Human Rights Court Accra, Ghana
Know you not my Lord Essel of the Human Rights Court?
Imperious without any dent
His upright frame and fame unbent
Or so, all were made to believe
He is feared beyond belief
Absolute, the awe he inspired
So too, the law he has acquired
Yet does he hide a side so sore
That its discovery drops all jaw
But the Tiger Eye bears the task,
To dig, to comb and to unmask
To shed light on the dark nooks,
And bring to book the lurking crooks.
Name of Court: Human Rights court, Accra
Case title: Republic vs. Mohammed
Nature of the crime: Murder
It was a murder case at the Human Rights Court. The trial Judge was Essel Mensah J. Tiger knew neither the accused nor his deceased victim. But we wanted to test the waters to see if it was possible to influence the case with money. Our connection man (King Gabriel) was the one who led us to see the Judge.
Essel’s Life-Saving Special Court
According to the 1992 Ghana constitution, the High Court has original jurisdiction in all human rights cases. It is to that effect that the Human Rights court was created specially to deal with human rights issues. Most cases come to the court upon applications from cases pending in other courts. The legitimate expectation is that, the human rights court shall ensure that the fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Constitution are protected at all times.
It is the last place that anyone would link with corruption. Our investigations however, the revealed the opposite. From our interaction with the judge, it appeared that one should not dream about having one’s human rights upheld by the Human Rights Court without offering a bribe, at least His Lordship Essel Mensah is the presiding judge. Simply put, human rights is for sale at a price the poor cannot pay.
Facts Of The Case
Nii Baah (a driver) was in a longstanding dispute over a piece of land with Samuel Kwofie (the deceased) who was 27 years old and a farmer. Nii Baah and his accomplices attacked the deceased in a brawl that saw both sides sustaining injuries. The injured reported to the hospital and were treated and discharged.
The same day, around 9 pm, the deceased was driving a taxi when he was accosted by Nii Baah and his accomplices. They blocked the road and pulled him out of the taxi. They attacked him and inflicted serious cutlass injuries on him, leaving him to bleed profusely. The deceased started shouting for help and this attracted his girlfriend and another friend appeared to the scene. The two rushed him to the hospital, but he was pronounced dead on arrival. The medical report stated that he died from multiple cutlass injuries as a result of a violent attack.
King Gabriel Is Back! Strategic As Ever (Hidden camera footage)
Tiger sat through the court of Essel Mensah J and observed proceedings keenly. Like his colleagues across the country, the sternness of his tone and the strictness of his demeanor was never to be lost. He looked like one who would not countenance criminality.
Influencing a Judge in a murder case was a tall order, but Tiger’s old connection man, King Gabriel, would prove a reliable conduit once again.
King Gabriel: How’re you?
Tiger2 (Another Investigator who was at the meeting): Oh fine sir, thank you sir!
King Gabriel: We thank God! So how much were you able to mobilize?
Tiger2: Yes I told Ahmed to tell you, because I’ve been busy…, so I asked him to tell you that I’m coming with GHc 6000.00.
King Gabriel: Oh!
Tiger2: Yeah boss, so I narrated everything to him, I asked him to beg you. If this thing works perfectly, the rest of the money (will be delivered)
King Gabriel: No, you see what I said was, that one would not be a problem, the one who’s going to do the thing, he’s the one we’re going to give the money to and I know your problem was that if I were to collect the money and then I tell you I’m going to give it to him…
So believe me it’ll be done; your mind would be bothering but this one I’m going with you, you’ll be there, then I’ll give it to him in front of you. You’ll also see it and you know the man, so if it is him you’ll know, if it is not him you’ll know. So you don’t have anything to fear.
Yes so if the thing is there you should have brought it so that when we go you’ll be there; we just give it to him; you’ll be there; you also see it and he knows what he’s going to do; you understand what I mean?
King Gabriel: Ehhh!
Tiger2: Let me call Ahmed!
King Gabriel: The thing is you’ll be there so you don’t have a problem. I’ve spoken with him right now, I’ve spoken two times with him.
Tiger: Will he take it right now?
King Gabriel: He’s there but we’re not going to do it here, ehhhe you understand what I mean!
Tiger2: Yeah, yeah! (Tiger2 calls Tiger)
King Gabriel: So you don’t have a problem!
Business-like, Gabriel quickly put a call through to the judge who gave us directions to his official residence where the deal was to be concluded. It turned out to be a much swifter process than we had expected.
Gabriel: They’re ready to go by what you are saying. They are not in a hurry at all, so I want to come with them and bring the thing to you. I wanted to know if you can tell me where we can stand and wait for you.
Oh I know there, Labone!
Did you say Razak? No I don’t know there
What restaurant; Chinese?
Okay I’ll ask!
Is it close to the station?
Children's home, Labone Children’s Home
Ahh okay I’ll ask, Osu Children’s Home, okay.
Ehhh he wanted to give it to you in person. I also want you to explain things to them, I have already talked to them though and they’ve understood but I wanted you to explain things to them as well for them to be settled.
They have understood, what they want is for you to be on their side; they are going to follow what you’ll be doing.
Yes, I’ll find the location, yes I know Labone secondary.
When A Judge Decides To Spill Beans, Prosecutors, Lawyers And Offenders In The Mix (Hidden camera footage)
We arrived in the house of the learned justice, located in a plush area of Labone. He kindly flung the door open for us.
He was brutally frank, to say the least. He said he knew of a very difficult state prosecutor handling the case. He had discussed the case with the accused's lawyer on several occasions and he was ready to go through the case even though it could bring him problems.
King Gabriel did his job as spokesperson almost perfectly. In the end, the learned judge took his money and gave a thorough account of the case, more like the delivery of a sermon on criminal law and the intricacies of that area of law.
Tiger: Good evening!
Judge Essel: Good evening, have a seat! What brought you here?
Gabriel: Please allow me to speak on his behalf.
Judge Essel: Okay!
Gabriel: These are my people just like I told you before. I have already explained the situation to them that it’s not a matter of rushing; considering the nature of the law, if you don’t take your time when doing things, you might end up in trouble. If only they would have the patience to wait for you to follow the case till you think the timing is right for you to grant him bail, that would be in your own pace.
If they wouldn’t pressure you, then fine so I brought them here for you to explain things to them yourself for them to understand. It’s not everyone who gets this opportunity; he has agreed to help you so you also have to get the patience to wait for him to help you, you don’t force the person to do things in your interest alone.
Tiger: It’s true!
Gabriel: So just like I told you, he’s my daddy, he’ll explain further to you so that you’ll understand!
Judge Essel: Are they Ga’s?
Gabriel: No, they are northerners!
Judge Essel: Is Nii Baah a Northerner?
Gabriel: Nii Baah is a Ga, he’s his paternal relative, his (Tiger) mother is from the north and his father is a Ga.
Judge Essel: Oh okay, is Abariga your lawyer?
Judge Essel: Abariga is my friend, we have discussed this issue several times but you see it’s such an extreme case: what they’re saying against him is serious. It could be false but now the evidence is so much against him and murder cases…, otherwise we would’ve granted him bail long ago, you see it is very difficult and the state attorney is another difficult person, the girl who’s with the state; very difficult person. She’s a friend of Abariga; he tried convincing her but that girl would not agree.
Tiger: Mmm he said it!
Judge Essel: Abariga told you?
Judge Essel: You see, so it’s difficult and me too I don’t want to take anybody’s money because once you take somebody’s money he expects that….(Tiger cuts in)
Tiger: Oh we’ve understood, we’ve understood, at the end of the day…(Essel cuts in)
Judge Essel: Look, I’ve been in this service since 1991. I know what happens that’s why I’m saying this: if you take the money, tomorrow…..!
Tiger: We’ve understood, I was even saying that at the end of the day it’s the end results that matters it’s not how long he would be on remand.
Gabriel: The end result is the most important thing. Now he’s been accused with murder and with murder you can be jailed for life. But if you’re lucky and at the end of the day instead of life sentence you are jailed five years, it’s a huge help, you understand what I’m saying.
Tiger: Yeah that one is true!
Gabriel: If you’re not able to prove that he didn’t commit a murder and the case still remains that he committed a murder and finally the judge says for some reason maybe I’ve given you five years or something; that is a huge help he has given you, yes that is a good help he has given you so if you would understand these things then…, because he was actually refusing me but I had to plead and say that no I know you, you in particular you are my friend (referring to chief Tiger)
Judge Essel: Abariga is my friend. Even yesterday we spoke about this, it’s because I told him that I would be going on leave that he quickly rectified the hearing notice. You see, we spoke about this case yesterday, we’ve been talking, me and Abariga we’ve been talking. You see so…, it is not as easy if it were….!
Tiger2: We’ve understood what my brother has also said.
Tiger: We’ll not expect anything until whatever my lord would decide.
Judge Essel: Because you see, when they come to you, they come very nice but the next time, they are causing trouble for you.
Gabriel: They’ve been doing that (referring to other people they do business with). As for that one is very true.
Tiger: As for us we’ll not expect anything until my lord makes a decision.
Judge Essel: As for money….!
Gabriel: Money is not the issue now!
Tiger: As for that one de3 it’s understood.
Gabriel: So as I said….!
Judge Essel: If we had met ……. and ……. we would have granted the man bail but Rebecca is very difficult, a very difficult lady. (Rebecca is a State Attorney at the Attorney General’s Department. Her name is Rebecca Naa Korkoi Aryeetey).
(Gabriel takes money from Tiger to give to Essel)
Gabriel: So my lord they said they have some fuel ……
Gabriel: This is GHc5,000.00 right?
Tiger:: Yes GHc5,000.00!
Judge Essel: This one would give me problem.
Gabriel: I know them very well, he’s my very good friend (referring to chief tiger). I would come and plead with you more. But as it is now, you have heard; you know what to do; you have to be patient; you have to be very, very patient; this one is nothing (referring to the GHc 5000.00 bribe they just gave to the judge)
Tiger2: Is nothing!
Gabriel: You understand, so don’t let it bring any problem.
Judge Essel: I wish I could grant the man bail, the fact is not good, you see even Abariga discussed it with me before he filed the application. He is my good friend that’s why he brought it to my court. He’s trying to get him out. Maybe he’s telling the truth, this whole thing is because of a land, it’s because they are trying to take his land away from him, if he’s sent away somebody will get the land to sell, you see.
Gabriel: Ehhh the number of period they keep him there then they would be able to cash pa!
Judge Essel: Because this land is not family land I think it belongs to his father, death has become trouble for him. So you see, they want to keep him away and take the land. I’m sure by now they have already started selling the land.
(Tiger and Gabriel talking at the same time)
Tiger: Last time I heard that your brother has,,,,,
Gabriel: What about if they bring some injunction or because he’s…!
Judge Essel: Ehh, ehh, they want to get rid of him and then sell the land. Some of you if you don’t get a good……that is the problem.
Judge Essel: Excuse me sir (Essel went out to talk to someone).
Gabriel: So when he comes, I’ll excuse you to go and wait for me in the car so that ehh the….
Tiger: Okay no problem!
Gabriel: If he’s not able to give him the bail now koraaa and he determines the matter and at the end of the day……. He can even change the charge and make it manslaughter. If he makes it manslaughter, then he would be guilty but if that doesn’t happen and your lawyer helps and he’s able to prove that he was not even there or what has happened he doesn’t have a hand in the matter, they can also leave him entirely but you have to do it in such a way that people’s eyes, … you know....
Tiger: Hope you understand? (addressing theTiger2)
Tiger2: Yes I understand!
Tiger: We too, we have to be cautious so that it doesn’t have to appear like every time,,, you understand!
Gabriel: But the most important thing is that we’re assured it would not be too bad on him, nothing would be too bad on him. Looking at the situation, if it goes this way, it would benefit us in a way, if it come this way it would benefit us in a way, you understand what I’m saying!
Our trusted King, took his cut of GHc 1000.00 later and that was the last that we invested in this particular case.
Kofi Essel Mensah is one of the most respected High Court Judges in Ghana. He has sat on many national and international cases bordering on human rights in Ghana. He sat on the famous Amoabeng criminal case where his ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court. He sat on the KKD rape case. He is currently sitting on the Gregory Afoko case. It was his ruling that reinstated the sacked Pharmacy Director of Korle Bu. Essel also sat on the Akwamu Fie and Kennedy Agyapong cases as well as the Tehoda cocaine case. He sentenced two people to death by hanging in separate trials when he was a High Court Judge in Ho.
Recap of the Salient Points of the Conversation
Essel Mensah said he had been in discussion with the accused person’s lawyer (Abariga) who is his very a good friend on the case. It is clear from the conversation that the learned Judge and the lawyer had been looking for means to grant the accused person bail even though he (Judge) himself had realized it was a bad case. Nonetheless, “they would have granted him bail”, but for the State Attorney who was proving difficult.
Judge Essel: “Abariga is my friend. Even yesterday we spoke about this, it’s because I told him that I would be going on leave that he quickly rectified the hearing notice. You see, we spoke about this case yesterday, we’ve been talking, me and Abariga we’ve been talking. You see so…, it is not as easy if it were….!”
Judge Essel: “I wish I could grant the man bail, the fact is not good, you see even Abariga discussed it with me before he filed the application. He is my good friend that’s why he brought it to my court. He’s trying to get him out. Maybe he’s telling the truth, this whole thing is because of a land, it’s because they are trying to take his land away from him, if he’s sent away somebody will get the land to sell, you see”.
This conversation suggests that the Judge had known about the case even before it was filed. As he presents it, his good friend the Lawyer had discussed it with him. The Lawyer ensured that the case was put before him. Our investigations on how cases are assigned to Judges, that is supposed to be done electronically. There are three Human Rights Court so if Essel knew the case was coming to him, it is a manifestation of the possibility to circumvent the electronic system and get cases to preferred or favorite Judges.
Essel’s comment on the accused person’s land also give an impression of how disparately he wanted to grant him bail in the face of the evidence that was put before him. He seemed to be arguing for the accused person in front of tiger (supposed relatives).
Judge Essel: “Because this land is not family land I think it belongs to his father, death has become trouble for him, so you see, they want to keep him away and take the land. I’m sure by now they have already started selling the land”.
Cases presided over by Justice Essel Mensah.
1.https://delacoffie.wordpress.com/…/digesting-the-decisions…/ … Judgment concerning the Kennedy Agyepong case… The judge (Justice Essel Mensah) made the habeas corpus order, and adjourned the matter for the state to appear and produce the accused in 4 days. Then again, he made an order for the accused to be released on the grounds of ill health.
2. http://newsghana.com.gh/human-rights-court-throws-out-case…/ …. An Accra Human Rights court presided over by Justice Essel Mensah, has dismissed the conditional appearance suit filed against the Disabled Federation by the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).
The Disabled Federation sued the GCCA, Antrak Air, Starbow and Africa World Airlines last year over their refusal to airlift a physically challenged person.
3. http://www.myjoyonline.com/…/court-adjourns-hearing-on-gmos… …On the GMO case…The judge, Justice Essel Mensah reiterated the caution he gave at the last sitting that government must refrain from going ahead with the commercial production of GM foods still stands.
4. http://spynewsagency.com/court-still-keeps-kkd-behind-bars/ ….On the KKD rape case....The Justice Kofi Essel-Mensah court adjourned the case to Thursday January 15.
According to Starr News’ Wilberforce Asare, Lawyers for the fashion icon requested and were granted a private moment with the judge in the course of the trial.
5. http://www.dailyguideghana.com/afoko-stranded-in-court-ove…/ ….. An Accra Human Rights Court was last week unable to hear the bail application filed by lawyers for Gregory Afoko, one of the two accused persons standing trial over the murder of Adams Mahama, Upper East Regional chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
Appearing before the court presided over by Justice Kofi Essel Mensah, Ekow Ampah Korsah, lead counsel for the 53-year-old farmer and brother of Paul Afoko, NPP National Chairman, said the turn of events was unfortunate, especially when the human rights of the accused were at stake.
6. http://www.africanewsanalysis.com/?p=12224 ….. Another case presided over by Justice Essel Mensah… The court order restraining the government and its agents from constructing any structure on the plots of land (No. 34 Airport Residential Area, also known as International Student Hostel) to house the Foreign Affairs Ministry and two state institutions is without merit. It is a clear demonstration of the decadence that has engulfed our judicial system. That verdict is a recipe for disaster.
Undercover – ‘Ghana In The Eyes of God’ is an investigative piece by Anas Aremeyaw Anas which revealed the corrupt activities of over 170 judicial staff and judges nationwide. The people involved in these acts of corruption were captured on hidden camera footage while taking the bribes.