Some experts on security and human rights have called for the de-politicisation of the work of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) because it is not in the best interest of the nation.
They denounced the practice whereby political activists besiege the premises of the BNI whenever a high-ranking political figure of their party is invited for questioning by the national intelligence body.
One of the experts and former Director of the BNI, Mr Kofi Bentum Quantson, who shared his thoughts with the Daily Graphic Wednesday, described such actions by political activists as “barbaric”.
Other experts who expressed their opinions on the issue in separate interviews were the Head of Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution Department at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre, Dr Emmanuel Kwesi Aning, and a human rights lawyer who pleaded anonymity.
Last Tuesday, a large number of former Ministers of State in the New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration, some Members of Parliament (MPs) and NPP loyalists besieged the premises of the BNI headquarters at Ridge, Accra, in a show of solidarity with a former Chief of Staff and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Mr Kwadwo Mpiani, who was being questioned by BNI officials on “wide range of issues”.
The situation was reminiscent of an incident in 2001 when some activists of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) stormed the premises of the BNI to also show solidarity with former Presjdent Rawlings and the MP for Ningo/Prampram, Mr E.T. Mensah, who were invited by the BNI for questioning.
“It’s ridiculous for political parties to behave that way,” Mr Quantson said, stating that the law establishing the BNI gave it the mandate to invite and interrogate anybody.
He said if some people had a problem with the law, they should seek a review in Parliament rather than engaging in actions that were not in tune with the law.
Mr Quantson said although Mr Mpiani was invited by the BNI last week, he responded to the invitation at his convenience on Tuesday.
He said it was normal for a new government, after assuming office, to change the leadership of the BNI, but the sanctity of the institution had to be maintained.
Mr Quantson, who is also a former Director of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service, dismissed suggestions that the BNI was usurping the functions of the CID and advised those who made such suggestions to seek knowledge from the law.
He called on stakeholders such as the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) and the media to educate the public on the mandate of the BNI set out in the National Security Act.
For his part, Dr Aning said people should not read political meaning into the work of the BNI, insisting that the national intelligence body had the right to interrogate anyone it deemed to have questions to answer in the interest of national security.
He said if the political colouring was taken off Mr Mpiani’s case, “the BNI has not done anything wrong”.
Dr Aning blamed the NDC and the NPP for exerting excessive political influence on the professional performance of the BNI, saying such attitude heightened tension and undermined the trust reposed in the organisation.
He dismissed assertions by some NPP activists that Mr Mpiani’s long date with the BNI last Tuesday was tantamount to human rights violation, adding that in 2001 under the administration of the NPP, whose members professed to be adherents of human rights, Mr E.T. Mensah was not just interrogated, but was also detained overnight at the BNI.
Dr Aning said so long as the interrogation of Mr Mpiani did not go beyond 48 hours, it was baseless to raise issues of human rights abuse.
He expressed concern about what he described as the “tit-for-tat” manner the two major political parties, the NDC and the NPP, were applying, meaning, anytime one of them assumed political power, it had to descend on its opponents.
Dr Aning disagreed with the claim that the BNI’s mandate was too broad, but said if that was the case, then it was necessary to call a national debate to discuss the issue and for Parliament to-review it.
In the opinion of the anonymous human rights lawyer, anyone who disagreed with the work of the BNI should use institutions of state, such as the courts, to seek redress rather than besiege the premises of the BNI.
He, however, contended that the National Security Act gave too broad a mandate to the BNI, arguing that it was not good to vest enormous power in one institution.
The human rights lawyer said although there was nothing wrong with the BNI inviting anyone for interrogation, the process of interrogation could be abusive of a person’s human rights.
He said it was not appropriate, for instance, to keep a person idle for a long time before interrogating him/her under conditions of exhaustion and hunger.
That, he said, was because under such conditions, the person would not be able to respond to questions in a manner he/she would normally have done.
Source: Daily Graphic
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