The Role of the Judiciary in Safeguarding the Right to Assembly and Public Protest in Ghana
Even though almost all countries in Africa formally recognize the right to freedom of assembly in their constitutions, governments have used repressive public order laws to frustrate the exercise of the right. In such hostile environments, courts can play an important role in protecting the right. The Ghanaian case of New Patriotic Party (NPP) v Inspector General of Police (NPP Case) provides a good illustration of how constitutional guarantee of the right to freedom of assembly can be frustrated by public order laws and how courts can step in to protect the right. The chapter highlights that, while liberal interpretations by courts can play an important role in safeguarding the right, this alone is not sufficient to protect the right peaceful assembly from illiberal policing tactics. It examines how the police in Ghana circumvented constitutional and legislative protection of the right through the use of the courts to stifle assemblies usually through ex parte injunctions from lower courts to curtail the exercise of peaceful assemblies, leading to recent legal action to prevent arbitrary police interference with the enjoyment of the right. It concludes that civil society and other relevant actors need to constantly be on the lookout for illiberal police maneuvering to ensure that judicial and legislative gains are not circumvented.
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