President - Ghana Bar Association (1962 - 1964)
Secretary General - Gold Coast Youth Conference (1937 - 1947)
Founder - Times of West Africa (1931)
Akan Doctrine of God [Academic Literature, 1944]
Gold Coast: Akan Laws and Customs and the Akim Abuakwa Constitution [Academic Literature, 1928]
The death of Dr. J.B. Danquah in Prison on the 4th February, 1965 received some prominence in the press throughout the world at the time. It is apparent also that some wild rumors about the circumstances of his death have been circulating and continue to circulate; and because of the prominence of Dr. J.B. Danquah as national figure in the history of Ghana, it was the view of the commission that, as in the case of Mr. E.O. Obetsebi-Lamptey, considerable care and attention should be devoted to uncovering the true circumstances of his confinement and death.
it was elicited first of all that Dr. J.B. Danquah, as in the case of Mr. Lamptey and small group of others of the more prominent detainees, was confined in the Condemned Cells (Special Block), on the upper landing in his case, together with condemned prisoners.
When considering the following facts it must be remembered that Dr. J.B. Danquah was a man 69 years of age at the time of his death.
Dr. J.B. Danquah was arrested and detained on the 8'th January 1964. He was admitted to Nsawam Prison and lodged in the Condemned Section (Special Block) in Cell No. 9 on the upper landing. The cell is approximately 9 feet by 6 feet in area, secured by solid door with small open grille in the top half of the door and barred window high up in the rear wall. The cell contained no bed or other furniture other than a chamber pot.
For three months after admission Dr. J.B. Danquah was not issued with a bed, but first of all with only a blanket to cover the bare concrete floor. Evidence reveals that there was an order that detainees in the Condemned Cells, for a period of several months are not allowed to stand up in their cells having to lie down or sit on the floor. The purpose of this order appears to have been to prevent each of the detainees knowing who were the others detained. This after many months had pass before some of the detainees discovered who the others were detained. It is felt also that the prison officers must have labored under some fear for all of them to have remained silent for so long.
Elaborate precautions were taken also to ensure that no detainee had contact with any member of the prison staff who was even remotely related, or were of the same tribe. In support of this we have the duty roster book of that time in which will be found set out clearly, the names of detainees and their tribes and the prisons staff and similar details.
The life of Dr. J.B. Danquah in the cells was regimented in the same manner as that of a condemned prisoner awaiting execution. Indeed, in some respects, his treatment was more rigid and circumscribed. On the few occasions when he was permitted to use the lavatory at the end of the corridor, he was escorted there and back; while he had his bath ; he was issued with tooth paste and toothbrush, he was supervised while he cleaned his teeth; the paste and brush were then withdrawn, his cell was subject to frequent rigid searches during the early part of his period of detention he was given no exercise and later apparently, only 15 minutes every week, although the records show this was somewhat irregular; during the early part of his detention he was allowed no visitors nor allowed to write letters but he later was permitted a visit from his wife approximately once a month.
Throughout the confinement of Dr. J.B. Danquah, and others, the Condemned Cells continued to function as such; from time to time executions were carried out. This in itself must have been a form of refined mental torture for the inmates. Mr. E.R.T. Madjitey is recorded as saying, when he heard an execution, that he wondered when he would be executed. Mr. Tawia Adamafio also stated in evidence when asked, "Were any executions carried out while you were in the Condemned Cells: He answered "yes", everything going on in the apartment could be heard by every inmate there. We could hear the preachers saying prayers, Holy Communion being served, and prisoners screaming, What impression did all that have on you? He answered, "I kept on wondering when it would be my turn".
There is conflicting evidence in regard to the diet given to Dr. J.B. Danquah and a few of the other more prominent detainees confined in the Condemned Cell. However, the commission feels more inclined in the evidence of Mr. C.E. Baiden, a retired prison officer, then in charge of the Condemned Cell, who says, when asked " Do you consider that in the treatment of Dr. J.B. Danquah the measures taken were in the interested of justice?" He answered "No". The treatment given Dr. J.B. Danquah was not good. The food was poor, and even when the doctor recommended European diet for him this was overruled by the Director of Prisons. The doctor's recommendation were not carried out." Also the evidence of Mr. Asiedu Moshie, a discharged warder who was on duty in the Condemned Cells for a number of years and who is mentioned in one of Dr. J.B. Danquah's petitions as a man who showed him some kindness. he said " At first the detainees were served a smaller quantity of food so they began to grow lean. This made the doctors recommend the same quantity of food to be given them."
The foregoing evidence is supported by the fact that Dr. J.B. Danquah lost 40lbs in weight between January 1964 and December 1964 as recorded monthly in the "Weighing book" for condemned prisoners. A few of the other detainees confined in the condemned block lost a similar amount of weight.
It is perhaps worth nothing what the nutrition officer says in her report of people whose diet is inadequate. "Undernourished people are hypochondriacs and complain, even hysterically, about small or imaginary disabilities." Dr. J.B. Danquah was obviously beginning to display such symptoms as will be seen from his petitions. Such symptoms would be aggravated by his close confinement, the irritations of rigid searches and regimented loneliness of a person in his state.
Not all of his disabilities were imagined, however, as the medical evidence clearly discloses. He was suffering from chronic Bronchial Asthma and hypertension 220/120. Without exception, all the medical witnesses confirmed that the small condemned cell was not a suitable place for a man of his age, in his condition, and yet, in spite of his pleadings, verbally to doctors and prisons Prison Hospital . The Medical Officers and prison Officers seemed to be too frightened or lacking in moral courage to assert their authority.
It is perhaps worthy of note that the Prison Medical Officers at this time (1964 - 1965) were not Ghanaians, but from overseas countries whose sympathies would appear to have been with the Nkrumah regime, and none of whom could be consulted as they have left the country. The same situation can be said to have applied during Mr. E.O. Obetsebi-Lamptey detention from October 1962 to January, 1963 until Dr. F.T. Sai was called in as physician specialist and immediately ordered his removal to Korle-Bu hospital in December 1962.
There is evidence that on the 30th June, 1964. a prison warder 2C/E/O Dogo Moshie, with the assistance of others, placed Dr. J.B. Danquah in leg irons for a short period as a punishment for being rude to a senior officer. This has been denied, but we refer to accept the evidence of the Assistant Director who heard the case and who said: "I am convinced that Dr. J.B. Danquah was chained by the officers." We do not agree with the late Director who over ruled this finding but agree with him when he said of Deputy Superintendent E.K. Sagoe, "I am inclined to think he bears the detainee(Dr. J.B. Danquah) a personal grudge. Mr. Sagoe showed a complete lack of understanding of Dr. J.B. Danquah and unkindness , to say the least, for depriving him of his one source of relaxation, his exercise, as a punishment. It is interesting to note that Mr. E.K. Sagoe was not removed from the Condemned Cell unit January 1965.
On the 4th February 1965, at 6:10 am following the normal routine, Dr. J.B. Danquah was unlocked and escorted to the end of the corridor to take his bath at 6:20 am. On returning to his cell, he found, apparently, that his cell had been thoroughly searched and some of his things including his Bible were on the floor. He lost his temper and began to abuse the warder. This brought on a heart attack and he collapsed and died. The medical evidence during the period January 1965 up to the time of his death is of interest.
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