Prof. H. Kwasi Prempeh: Lodging a formal complaint against Ayine an attack on free speech rights of lawyers

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SourceH. Kwasi Prempeh    3 June 2021 5:18pm

So, now members of the Ghana Bar cannot offer a personal unflattering opinion of the judiciary on an academic, civil society, or other public discussion platforms, even after a case has been decided, without risking being hauled before the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council? Really?

On the same platform where this lawyer expressed the opinion that has earned him an invitation to appear before the Disciplinary Committee of the legal profession’s regulator, other panelists, including other lawyers, strongly disagreed with him in his opinion of the judiciary regarding the case under discussion, with some praising the court’s handling of the matter.

In other words, the platform on which the lawyer spoke was a veritable marketplace of ideas and opinion, with panelists debating each other in frank, open dialogue. It cannot be ok for a lawyer to praise a court but an act bordering on professional misconduct for another lawyer to express a contrary view of the court.

This, incidentally, was a webinar discussion organized by CDD-Ghana, in collaboration with the KNUST law faculty, as part of a new “Judicial Review” series (a partnership between CDD and two law faculties in Ghana) that aims to review and examine decisions of the courts for their impact on democracy and good governance.

This particular panel, which examined the recent Ghana election petition through a comparative lens, featured two foreign participants (from Kenya and Zimbabwe), four Ghanaian lawyers, and me.

That an opinion expressed at such a forum, to contestation from other participants, would cause anyone to lodge a formal complaint with the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council is unprecedented, bizarre, and ill-advised.

Not only is this bound to have a chilling effect on the free speech rights of lawyers, it will also impact negatively on both academic freedom and the freedom and ability of civil society to promote judicial accountability, including through projects like the Judicial Review series.

I find no justification whatsoever for the Disciplinary Committee of the GLC to be brought into this matter or to investigate Dr. Dominic Akuritinga Ayine for the opinion he expressed on the panel.