5 September 2011

Ghana: Attorney-General Caught in Gay Controversy

The Minister for Justice and Attorney-General, Martin Amidu has courted the wrath of anti-gay sections of the Ghanaian public by declaring that homosexual acts engaged in privacy do not fall foul of the law, because one cannot tell what happens in people's private life, and more so, as he puts it, "It is illegal to invade the privacy of two rightful thinking adults to obtain evidence for prosecution purpose".

In a rather candid manner, the A-G intimated that when it comes to whether or not homosexuality should be legalized, his view is that, it is improbable that it will ever happen in his generation. That, however, he said, does not wish away the position of the law currently and the difficulty in its application.

The Minister was responding to questions in respect of the work of his ministry at a Meet-the-Press encounter in Accra last week. Updating journalists on the progress made towards the passage of the Right to Information Bill, he indicated that the Bill is in Parliament and hoped that it will be taken into consideration soon.

On the natural resource sector, he disclosed that, work on the review of the Minerals and Mining Act, which is expected to take care of loopholes in the current regime, especially as it relates to alternative livelihoods, the environment and other community concerns, is almost completed. He further indicated that new topics for the review of contract law, and the law of torts will take cognisance of emerging issues in the oil and gas sector.

In a bid to clear some of the misconceptions around the work of his Ministry, Hon. Martin Amidu explained that the perception that the Attorney-General and the Judiciary deal leniently with politicians is unfounded, because the Judiciary doesn't act on the basis of ideology but rather on legal reasoning, within which context, "what is right will always be right and wrong, always wrong".

Recounting the major achievements of his ministry in the year under review, he mentioned the completion of work on the 'Restorative Justice and Alternatives to Custodial Sentencing' report. The report contains recommendations on decongestion of the prisons; introduction of new sentencing procedures; and review of the prison decrees, among others.

On the Ministry's challenges, he explained that the Prosecutions Division principally collaborates with the Attorney-General in carrying out his constitutional duty of initiating and conducting criminal prosecutions and with their support has been able to minimize crime substantially. That not withstanding, he observed that, lack of cooperation and support from relevant ministries, department and agencies in handling cases sometimes results in delays in filing processes and pleadings, leading to default judgments against the state.

The insufficient budgetary funds to provide the necessary logistics for effective and efficient professional services to the state, and also the lack of software to enable the attorneys conduct legal research into cases, statutes and other issues were identified as other setbacks.

Concluding, the AG noted that there are great challenges ahead, but was optimistic that with the given level of commitment shown by his team, his outfit is able to render for the good of Ghana, legal services of a professional nature based on transparency and accountability.

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