Mob Justice and the Rule of Law
: A Case Study of Ghana

  • Jasmine Otuko Osabutey

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

The emergence of globalisation has promoted human rights education and the media and
scholarly works such as Tankebe, Kodah, Adu-Gyamfi and Asamoah have drawn attention to
the weak rule of law and mob justice activities constantly recurring in a developing country
like Ghana. Mob justice is a practice where ordinary people take the law into their own hands
to seek instant justice on suspected criminals to express their frustrations against the
inadequate effective security provided by the State. The rule of law is a system of governance
that protects human rights and applies equally to everyone, is publicly known, clearly stated
and easily accessible. This is incorporated into international instruments. Mob justice
contradicts the principles of the rule of law; thus, this research aims at examining how mob
justice violates the cardinal principles of the rule of law especially the right to life and a fair
trial. It assesses the consequences of mob justice on the rule of law in Ghana’s developing
democracy.
Employing qualitative methods – library-based secondary data and interviews were used. By
purposive sampling, 15 expert opinions and relevant organisations with a keen interest in the
subject matter from Ghana were interviewed online with semi-structured questionnaires. Case
scenarios were also employed. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948,
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1966, African Charter on
Human and Peoples' Rights (African Charter) 1981 and the Constitution of Ghana 1992 are
the underlining legal framework; and Liberal Democratic theory, Functionalism theory and
Tylerian procedural justice perspective underpins the research. Whiles some argue that mob
justice breaches the rule of law and human rights; others say that it is justified because the
rule of law has failed to protect human rights. On one hand, mob justice undermines the rule
of law/human rights, destroys the State’s image, foreign investments, productivity and
development, and increases poverty and crimes. On the other hand, it is a wake-up call for the
State to take its responsibility to protect seriously.
Research findings are that weak governance leads to poor security and justice systems which
leads to the weak rule of law and an increase in mob justice; whereas good governance leads
to strong security and well-functioning judicial systems which lead to active rule of law and a
decrease in mob justice. This seems to be applicable in most developing countries. The State
must take its responsibility to protect (R2P) citizens’ rights seriously by improving the
services of the security and justice systems. This protects the rule of law and earns the trust
and confidence of citizens to stop mob justice activities – and is in line with Tylerian
procedural justice theory and explains the essence of Functionalist and Liberal Democratic
theories.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorBrian Ikejiaku (Supervisor), Margaret Liu (Supervisor), Ben Stanford (Supervisor) & Steve Foster (Supervisor)

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