Information on current judicial system and on how the charge of attempting a coup d'etat would be dealt with, and on whether the accused would be entitled to counsel and on the possible punishment [GHA20190.E]

An official with the High Commission for the Republic of Ghana in Ottawa stated in a telephone interview that attempting a coup d'etat is a treasonable offence according to the constitution that came into effect in January 1993 (11 Apr. 1995). The official said the penalty for committing a treasonable offence is the death penalty (ibid.); the official was unaware of whether or not lesser sentences are possible. According to the official, treasonable offenses are heard before the Supreme Court. The accused has the right to counsel and the state will provide legal counsel for those unable to afford it themselves (ibid.). The excerpts from the Ghanaian constitution attached to this response corroborate the information provided by the official.

A lawyer who received legal training in Ghana and now practices law in Ottawa, stated in a telephone interview that the procedure for prosecuting someone charged with attempting a coup would differ depending on whether the case was brought before a military tribunal or a civil court (11 Apr. 1995). The lawyer stated that if military personnel were among the accused, then they, and any accused civilians, would more than likely be prosecuted before a military tribunal (ibid.). According to the lawyer, trials before a military tribunal permit the prosecution to make fewer disclosures about the case to the public and to the defendants (ibid.). In addition, defence counsel could have greater difficulty challenging prosecution evidence in a trial before a military tribunal because the panel that judges the case can arbitrarily reject challenges without recourse to rules of law (ibid.). The lawyer corroborated the information provided by the embassy official regarding the accused's right to legal counsel and the death penalty as punishment for those convicted of planning a coup attempt, and added that lesser sentences of long terms of imprisonment and hard labour in maximum security prisons might be imposed (ibid.).

The following information was obtained in a telephone interview with a publisher of the Ghana Drum, a Washington-based monthly on Ghanaian affairs (12 Apr. 1995). A person charged with attempting a coup could be tried by either a civilian court or by a military tribunal. The publisher said that President Jerry Rawlings still wields influence over the judiciary, although this influence is somewhat diminished under the new constitution. Nevertheless, the publisher suggested that Rawlings could influence the decision of whether a military tribunal or a civilian court heard the case of a person charged with plotting a coup. The source also stated that military tribunals are used to overcome the backlog of delayed cases before the civilian courts. The publisher speculated that the governing authorities might prefer to delay the trial of someone charged with plotting a coup because they would not want to upset the political atmosphere in the country, or allow their opponents to use a trial to communicate their views. The source also stated that the use of trumped-up charges against political opponents, a tactic used by Rawlings when the country was under military rule, is no longer in the best interests of the government.

For additional information, please consult the attached excerpts from the Ghanaian constitution and Criminal Code.

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


High Commission of the Republic of Ghana, Ottawa. 11 April 1995. Telephone interview with official.

Lawyer, Ottawa. 11 April 1995. Telephone interview.

Ghana Drum, Washington, DC. 12 April 1995. Telephone interview with publisher.


Kludze, A.K.P. May 1993. Vol. 7. "Ghana," Constitutions of the Countries of the World. Edited by Albert P. Blaustein and Gisbert H. Flanz. Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, pp. 27-29, 36-47, 56-60, 207-210.

Republic of Ghana. 1960. Criminal Code, 1960, pp. 31-35, 83-89.