Saturday, 28 April 2012

Slapstick, Treason and other Literary devices



I studied literature in high school and once in a while an event happens and, out of the dark recesses of my mind, a literary devices pop up and it makes total sense . . .

On my way to school on Thursday  morning I heard a news story on Joy fm. (My station of choice is usually Yfm  but Mz Naa’s usual commentary about the world news annoyed me more than usual so I switched) and my word of the day is Slapstick.
Slapstick is a type of physical comedy characterised by broad humour, absurd situations, and vigorous, usually violent action. It is also described as exceeding the boundaries of common sense. It is an art form that was looked down on by the ancients because of its perception as a ‘low’ form of comedy or humour. The actors may hit one another repeatedly with great audible effect (which in fact causes very little actual damage). Slaptick has evolved as an art form, and is now –thanks to The Three Stooges and performers like Rowan Atkinson, is considered not so ‘basic’.

(Keep this in mind:
Absurd (adj)
1.(of an idea or suggestion) wildly unreasonable, unsound, illogical or inappropriate.; at variance with reason.   
2. (Of a person’s behaviour or actions) foolish, unreasonable, unsound, ridiculous.)

Now that we have been reminded of what absurd means, let me see if I get the story right:
A  man (literally foaming at the mouth) makes unwarranted, terrible comments on radio, declaring war and ordering fake security agents be lynched. There is a public uproar – many condemn his statements, others too ...*sigh*. The Police react and he’s whisked away with fanfare. Apparently causing some damage to inappropriately placed human beings on the way. The man’s alarmed, irate following storm the premises where he’s being held to demand his release. Tires are burnt, warning shots are fired and tear gas is used. The man is eventually kept in custody for more than the 48 hours prescribed by the Constitution. He was then sent to the Adjabeng court on charges of treason felony, terrorism and attempted genocide. The court declined jurisdiction and asked for the matter to be sent to the High court where the learned judge released the man on bail and advised the prosecution to review the charges, preferably for lesser offences. But not before an a habeas corpus application was made by his lawyers, and a judge made an interim order for his release from custody. A section of the public, including members of the legal fraternity condemn this strongly.
Yesterday I heard this same man was being sent to the international criminal court. This was the straw that broke this skinny camel's back.
You don't get it, do you...

Let’s see if I can paint you the picture in my mind:
A frustrated man (literally foaming at the mouth) makes unwarranted, terrible comments on radio. There is a public uproar – many condemn his statements, others too...*sigh*.
 [Absurd situation: man should have known better. The Radio station should not have permitted it, even if their owner was the one making the comments. They should have known better and been more responsible]

The Police react and he’s whisked away with exaggerated fanfare. Apparently causing some damage to inappropriately placed human beings on the way [Vigorous action, violent action]

The man’s alarmed, irate following storm the premises where he’s being held to demand his release. Tires are burnt, warning shots are fired and tear gas is used. An arrest or two is made by the Police.
 [Absurd situation  + Vigorous action, violent action : but as for followers I won’t make any comments about them. The priorities and IQs of the average person is a continuous source of worry for me.  The Police should have been a wee bit more moderate in their reaction.]

The man is eventually kept in custody for more than 48 hours, as prescribed by the Constitution
[Absurd situation: law enforcement should stick to the rules!] 
slapstick

He was then sent to court the Adjabeng Magistrate court on charges of treason felony, terrorism and attempted genocide.The court declined jurisdiction ...
[Absurd situation: a magistrate court does not have jurisdiction to try treason. Matters involving high treason, armed robbery, hijacking, genocide, and narcotics like cocaine are beyond that of the district magistrate courts and should be dealt with by a High Court.The prosecution should have known that. They should have played by the rules!
As for the crowd, they jubilate as soon as they hear the wind blowing so I have no comment about them]

 ....and asked for the matter to be sent to the High court where the learned judge released the man on bail and advised the prosecution to review the charges, preferably for lesser offencesBut not before an a habeas corpus application was made by his lawyers, and a judge made an interim order for his release from custody.

1992 Constitution:
Article 3 Clause 3(a) and (b); and Article 19 Clause 17(a)(b) and (c) states:
(3) Any person who -
(a) by himself or in concert with others by any violent or other unlawful means, suspends or overthrows or abrogates this Constitution or any part of it, or attempts to do any such act; or
(b) aids and abets in any manner any person referred to in paragraph (a) of this clause; commits the offence of high treason and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to suffer death.
Article 19
(17) Subject to clause (18) of this article, treason shall consist only-
(a) in levying war against Ghana or assisting any state or person or inciting or conspiring with any person to levy war against Ghana; or
(b) in attempting by force of arms or other violent means to overthrow the organs of government established by or under this Constitution; or
(c) in taking part or being concerned in or inciting or conspiring with any person to make or take part or be concerned in, any such attempt.

The Criminal Code :
Section 180—Treason
(1) Whoever commits treason shall be liable to suffer death.
(2) For the purposes of this section, "treason" shall have the meaning assigned to it by clause (3) of Article 3 of the Constitution.
(3) A person who is not a citizen of Ghana shall not be punishable under this section for anything done outside Ghana, but a citizen of Ghana may be tried and punished for an offence under this section wherever committed.

          Section 182—Treason Felony.
A person is guilty of treason-felony and shall be punishable as for first degree felony who—
(a) prepares or endeavours to procure by unlawful means any alteration of the law or the policies of the Government; or
(b) prepares or endeavours to carry out by unlawful means any enterprise which usurps the executive power of the State in any matter of both a public and a general nature.

So the question is, by (merely) uttering those words, had the man in question committed treason? 

The offences relating to public order include:
Rioting; Rioting with weapons; Provocation of riot; Unlawful assembly; agreeing to fight with weapons; disturbance of lawful assembly, Assault, etc., on public officer, carrying offensive weapons, Offensive conduct conducive to breaches of peace, Publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm (a local favourite,lol) , Discharging guns, etc., in town.
These are mostly misdemeanours. These are probably the lesser offences the judge referred to.

In relation to the Judge granting bail in case involving a 'non-bailable charge' the following case is instructive:
SEIDU AND OTHERS v. THE REPUBLIC [1978] GLR 65
Any person preferring a charge under a a criminal statute must be quite sure that the offence charged was within the letter of the law. It was unbelievable that the legislature, by section 96 (7) of Act 30, intended the courts to refuse bail to persons against whom no proper charge had been preferred. The presumption was that the legislature did not intend what was inconvenient or unreasonable. Those whom the legislature intended section 96 of Act 30 to cover were those against whom, the charge preferred could be said by the court to be supported by evidence which the prosecution professed to have, and not persons against whom there was no legally acceptable evidence connecting them with the charge… The power of preferring charges against persons suspected of crime must be exercised in good faith for which the power was conferred. A court was entitled to request the prosecution to advise the court on the basis for the prosecution. If on examination, it appeared to the court that those entrusted with the power to prefer charges had exercised their powers improperly or in bad faith, then there would be no basis for the compliance by the court with the injunction to refuse bail. In this case the power of charging the applicants with criminal offences was improperly used. 
Also see:
REPUBLIC v CRENTSIL AND ANOTHER [1987-88] 2 GLR 712
For the mandatory provisions of section 96 (7)(a) of Act 30 to operate and oust the hitherto known jurisdiction of the High Court to grant bail in [certain] cases, the charge must have been properly laid. The charge would have been improperly laid if there was no evidence in support of it. Further it was the responsibility of the court to determine if the charge had been properly laid or not. Therefore, the mere charging of an accused with the offence under [section 96], irrespective of the nature of the evidence in support, could not strip the High Court of its power to grant bail in such a situation.



A section of the public, including members of the legal fraternity condemn this strongly: here's such a comment by a lawyer: http://politics.myjoyonline.com/pages/news/201204/85256.php
 Actually:
CI 47, Order 65 Rule 4—Power to Order Release of Persons Restrained
"Without prejudice to rule 2 (1), the Court or Judge hearing an application for a writ of habeas corpus ad subjiciendum may in the Court's or judge's discretion order that the person restrained be released, and such order shall be a sufficient warrant to any officer in charge of a prison, police officer or other person for the release of the person under restraint."

His  lawyers applied for the detained man's release under this order so it is within a Judge's powers to grant the release of a prisoner when there is an application for a writ of habeas corpus (an extraordinary writ issued upon a petition challenging the lawfulness of restraining a person who is imprisoned or otherwise in another's custody). It is also within a judge's power, per the two stated cases, to release an accused person if they feel the charges are not correctly framed, ie when the facts in support do not properly constitute the charge against the accused. This is also absurd (remember the definition) because you would expect a lawyer to know this, right?
ps. The first order made by Justice Essel was not 'bail' it was an interim release order, pending another hearing. It was the second one by Justice Quist that was bail, properly so called.  Someone should please correct the newspapers and radio stations.


The terrorism issue: Below is the act, try and figure out where the statement falls...pretend it's a sodoku puzzle:
ANTI-TERRORISM ACT, 2008 (ACT 762).
1. Prohibition of terrorist act
A person shall not engage in a terrorist act.
2. Terrorist act
(1) An act is a terrorist act if it is performed in furtherance of a political, ideological, religious, racial or ethnic cause and
(a) causes serious bodily harm to a person;
(b) causes serious damage to property;
(c) endangers a person’s life;
(d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public;
(e) involves the use of firearms or explosives;
(f) releases into the environment or exposes the public to
(i) dangerous, hazardous, radioactive or harmful substances;
(ii) toxic chemicals; or
(iii) microbial or other biological agents or toxins;
(g) is prejudicial to national security or public safety;
(h) is designed or intended to disrupt
(i) a computer system or the provision of services directly related to communications;
(ii) banking or financial services;
(iii) utilities, transportation; or
(iv) other essential services; or
(i) is designed or intended to cause damage to essential infrastructure.
(2) A person who contravenes subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable on conviction on indictment to a term of imprisonment of not less than seven years and not more than twenty-five years. 

Yesterday I heard this same man was being sent to the international criminal court by The Ghana Coalition for the International Criminal Court (ICC) -who I have never heard of, but anyway, what do I know....

ROME STATUTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Article 5
Crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court
The jurisdiction of the Court shall be limited to the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole. The Court has jurisdiction in accordance with this Statute with respect to the following crimes:
(a) The crime of genocide;
(b) Crimes against humanity;
(c) War crimes;
(d) The crime of aggression.

Article 6
Genocide
For the purpose of this Statute, "genocide" means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Article 25
Individual criminal responsibility
3. In accordance with this Statute, a person shall be criminally responsible and liable for punishment for a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court if that person… (e) In respect of the crime of genocide, directly and publicly incites others to commit genocide.


Last time I checked the charge levelled against the man was attempted genocide, doesn't that alone oust the jurisdiction of the court?? ie, because no ACTUAL genocide was committed. So isn't this yet another absurd situation???
hmmmm.
I didn't and still don't support the statements made but now this is just getting out of hand...and getting quite silly and embarrassing if you ask me...but no one has. He too, after they show him where power lies, next time he'll think before he speaks.
Well, the legal slapstick continues...stay tuned