ACCRA (Reuters) –Ghana’s government suspended seven out of 12 high court judges on Monday in the wake of allegations of bribery stemming from a documentary made by an investigative journalist.
The decision is part of a response to a three-hour film first screened in the capital last month that has caused an uproar in the West African country because it showed judges accepting bribe money through intermediaries.
Ghana’s judiciary is revered for its efficacy and impartiality and is viewed as a bulwark of a society that prides itself on its reputation as one of Africa’s most stable and peaceful democracies.
But the documentary put Chief Justice Georgina Wood and other judicial leaders under pressure to show a forceful public response.
“Their suspension follows the establishment of a prima facie case of stated misbehavior against them by the Hon. Lady Chief Justice (Wood),” said a statement from the Judicial Service announcing a decision by Vice President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur based on advice from the Judicial Council.
The council previously suspended 22 junior judges who appeared in the video and investigated the conduct of high court judges to see if there is a case for their impeachment.
Some of the judges have denied wrongdoing and have filed a challenge in court, saying their suspension had no legal basis because documents relating to the video that were submitted by the journalist were not made available to them.
In 2013, the Supreme Court dismissed an election challenge by the political opposition, which had sought to annul the re-election of President John Mahama the previous year.
The ruling, which followed months of testimony, was accepted by the opposition and the case and its outcome was viewed as a testament to the judiciary’s authority.