A new survey by Afrobaromter has indicated that Ghanaian courts are biased, drags and tilt towards the rich. “Ghanaians say high costs, a bias in favour of the rich and powerful, and long delays are the three most important barriers that prevent citizens from using the formal justice system, according to a recent Afrobarometer survey,” the survey said.
It further stressed: “While most Ghanaians endorse the legitimacy of the courts, they also see court officials as corrupt and untrustworthy, and believe people are treated unequally under the law. The findings show that among those who had contact with the justice system during the previous year, many rate the system as high on corruption and low on fairness and transparency”.
Ghana is a signatory to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Maputo Protocol, both of which oblige the state to ensure that citizens have access to the delivery of justice.
But conditions necessary to ensure efficient and equal access to judicial systems, such as affordability, proximity, comprehensibility, and responsiveness, are not in place for a number of Ghanaians.
? More than three-fourths of Ghanaians say the president – and ordinary citizens – must obey the courts and laws (Figure 1).
? But court officials are widely seen as corrupt and untrustworthy. o More than eight in 10 Ghanaians (85%) say at least “some” judges and magistrates are corrupt, including 40% who say this about “most” or “all” of these court officials (Figure 2). o Fewer than half of respondents say they trust courts “a lot” (16%) or “somewhat” (32%) (Figure 3).
? Only one in 20 Ghanaians (5%) say they had contact with the formal judicial system during the previous year. The most important reasons why Ghanaians think people do not use the formal judicial system are that it is too expensive (cited by 54% of respondents), that the system favours the rich and powerful (31%), and that legal proceedings take a long time before judgment is given (31%) (Figure 4).
? Among respondents who had contact with the judicial system during the previous year: o About half (52%) rate the level of corruption in the judicial system as “high” or “very high.” o Fewer than one in three rate the judicial system favourably (with “high” or “very high” ratings) on independence (31%), professionalism (30%), fairness (21%), responsiveness (18%), and transparency (16%) (Figure 5).