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Pass 'Mahama (Duty To Rescue) Act 2017': a law to stop lynching and other mob crimes

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Mahama (Duty To Rescue) Act 2017

In memory of the late Major Maxwell Mahama, and as contribution to stop the growing mob actions that often lead to loss of life, I am proposing a new law that would be called, Mahama (Duty To Rescue) Act 2017.

The Act will place a legal obligation on every citizen to help rescue any citizen whose life is in danger.

Be Citizens, Not Spectators

Article 41 of the 1992 Constitution provides that: “…It SHALL be the DUTY of EVERY citizen:

(d) …To refrain from doing acts detrimental to the welfare of other persons.

(g)  To contribute to the well-being of the community where that citizen lives.

(i)   To co-operate with lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order.”

The Mahama (Duty to Rescue) Act 2017, shall require citizens to carry out at least one of the following duties, among others, to help rescue a citizen whose life is in danger:

·        Call law enforcement agencies, emergency services or other citizens, as the case may be, to come and rescue the victim.

·        Document (record) and share evidence of the incident with lawful agencies and assist in any further investigations.

·        Intervene directly to rescue the victim, if you can do so without endangering your own life.

I am just a layman, not a lawyer. The legal brains can work out the fine provisions, but here are a few provisions that we can borrow from other jurisdictions, which should go a long way to deal with lynching and mob crimes in Ghana:

1.      Anyone who fails to render assistance to a person in danger will be found liable and upon conviction could face a term of imprisonment, a fine, or both. (As it is in France, Wikipedia)

2.      It is forbidden to knowingly abandon people who are in life- or health-threatening situations when said people can't help themselves. (As it is in Russia, Wikipedia)

3.      Every citizen is obligated to provide assistance in case of an accident or general danger. (As it is in Germany, Wikipedia)


The first two provisions will ensure that anybody standing within say 20 meters of a person being attacked without intervening can be charged under the law. This will achieve 2 things:

·        If you can’t help, walk away so the actual perpetrators can easily be identified. This takes away the ‘mob anonymity mentality’, as fewer people would be willing to congregate around the perpetrators to give them that sense of anonymity.

·        Knowing that your proximity to the incident puts a legal obligation on you will encourage you to make an effort to fulfill one of the duties listed above, at the very least to call for help or assist in identifying the perpetrators. Helping to identify perpetrators and reporting to the Police, could absolve you of further liability, even if you could not directly help.

·        The third provision will in addition help to stop the bizarre situation in Ghana where people would steal from accident victims or vehicles, rather than help out. This may also stop people who siphon fuel from fuel tankers that get involved in accidents.

·        If prosecutors cannot obtain enough evidence to charge suspects with murder, they can charge everybody who was present but failed to rescue the victim with failure to perform Duty To Rescue obligations and request the court to impose the maximum sentence, say 5 years.

·        The Act could incorporate Plea-Bargain provisions. Prosecutors can offer plea-bargain deal, say a 6-month suspended sentence, to those who were present but did not physically take part in the actual attack, if they cooperate, act as State witnesses and provide evidence that leads to conviction of the main perpetrators.  

Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako, Accra

(Updated: June 9, 2017)

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