Litany of assaults: time to halt the trend

Although it has been an age-long phenomenon, the incidence of assault cases recorded in the country recently seems to be extra alarming.

The most recent one, which occurred last Thursday, was that of Sergeant Asiedu of the Accra Regional SWAT Unit and a separate group of police officers who physically assaulted three Ghanaian Times journalists who were on their way to cover assignments.

The focus is not to “open up old wounds,” regarding the incident, which is being investigated.

However, the attack on Malik Sullemana, Mrs Raissa Sambou Ebu, a lactating mother and Salifu Abdul Rahman, was unfortunate. Sympathy is extended especially to Mrs Sambou who was rushed to the emergency unit of the Greater Accra Regional Hospital, due to the impact of the assault.

It had been nearly a year and a half since she left work for her “dreadful journey to motherhood”, and it is disheartening for her to return only to meet with such an inhumane treatment in the hands of people paid by the state to protect lives and property.

Apart from this incident, several Journalists and other citizens have suffered similar fate, without the deserved justice. The perpetrators of such crimes (men in uniform) are always let off the hook by their superior officers who are supposed to bring them to book.

The cases of assault starting right from homes, prayer centres, as well as those involving public officers cannot be condoned any longer.

Not long ago, tongues were wagging, after a police man was captured on video brutally beating a woman while her grandchild was strapped at her back.  The woman had gone to a Savings and Loans Company to withdraw part of her savings.

The incident which went viral on social media, sparked public outrage and drew condemnation from a number of civil society organisations and well-meaning citizens.

In this scenario, too, justice was not seen to be delivered, although the victim, Patience Osafo was compensated through the benevolence of some members of the public after her ordeal. In spite of her assault being an infringement on her fundamental human rights, others thought it was a “blessing in disguise.”

The church cannot be left out in the litany of assault cases that had been recorded in recent years. Some self-acclaimed pastors, under the guise of “casting out evil spirits”, had meted out indescribable torture on vulnerable women.

A video of a renowned preacher in Accra, circulated on social media, as he assaulted two teenagers with a leather belt for allegedly having “consensual sex.”

While sections of the public considered it as an abuse, others unfortunately praised the pastor for instilling “discipline,” in the ‘couple’.

The alarming cases of assault are evident in a recent report by the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service.

Between 2011 and 2016 about 30,408 assault cases had been reported nationwide.

Instances of parents assaulting children for minor offences, as well as the graphic images that come with some stories also send chills down the spine of many.

The most recent occurrence involved a five-year-old boy whose hand was cut by his step mother, at Cape Coast.  Media reports indicated that the woman had wanted to hit the boy with a cutlass but ended up cutting  the boy’s hand.

It was heartbreaking to discover that the young boy, after suffering did not receive early medical attention, until some neighbours intervened and took him to the hospital but his hand was eventually amputated.

Lawlessness and the varied forms of assault were further replicated in a recent video in which a “trotro” driver and mate fought a uniformed police man.

The difference here is that the police acted swiftly to arrest the “trotro commandos”.

It is important to establish that only a handful of the culprits are punished for the assaults they commit, while others also sought out-of-court settlement in some of the assault cases.

Considering the recurring of assaults, citizens should be mindful of the fact that we live in a democratic dispensation, and governed strictly by rules and regulations. Hence it is high time these unfriendly attacks perpetuated by public officers and citizens came to a halt.

At no point, should any individual inflict pain on another, even if there was solid basis to do so. Individuals should endeavour to exercise restraint in the face of provocations, as civil society and gender-based groups continue to advocate the respect of human rights.

The Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice should as well live up to its mandate, and also provide the needed assistance for victims of assault, so that justice would be seen to have been delivered.

When it comes to dealing with police officers who unleash brutal force on citizens, the function of the Police Intelligence and Professional Standards Bureau (PIPS) comes into sharp focus.

PIPS is expected to check the conduct of the personnel who engage in unprofessional acts, but it appears the public is losing confidence in the ability of the police to deal with their own men who misconduct themselves. They must sit up and do the needful when their men fall foul of the law.

Moreover, citizens should remain circumspect and not fall prey to self-proclaimed men and women of God who act beyond the tenets of the Bible, which is the standard of the Christian faith. They should not submit themselves to ‘torture’ in the name of ‘deliverance’ or ‘exorcism’

As we push for the elimination of public assault in all forms, the law must be allowed to take its rightful course, when any unfortunate incident occurs. There should not be cover ups!: Enough is enough.

By Portia Hutton-Mills

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