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LIFESTYLE: Spotlight On Justice Emile Francis Short

Mr. Justice Emile Francis Short, a University of London-trained lawyer was appointed Commissioner at the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in 1993 just when the country had transitioned into democratic rule.

Birth, education, and work

Mr. Justice Emile Francis short was born on February 6, 1943, in Cape coast to Joseph Benedict short, a Sierra Leonean lawyer, and Wilhemina Smith, a Fante from Cape coast.

He began schooling at the Jubilee school in Cape Coast and continued at the St Edward Primary school in Freetown, Sierra Leone. In 1955, he enrolled at St Augustine's College in Cape Coast, completing the sixth form in 1962.

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After the sixth form, he went back to Sierra Leone to teach at the St Edward's secondary school in Freetown for about a year and left for the University of London where he studied for his LLB degree in Law

He also studied at Lincoln's Inn for his Barrister-at-Law certificate and was called to the bar in 1966. After that, he enrolled at the London School of Economics and politics and earned a Master's degree in Law in 1967. From 1967 to 1968, he taught at the Middlesex Polytechnic in London.

In 1968, Mr.Justice short was appointed a state attorney or crown Counsel as they were known then by the Sierra Leonean government but he did not stay in that position for too long.

"I did not like the political climate in that country ", he recalled, adding "There was too much political tension at the time".

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He went back to London and worked with marine insurance and later left for the United States where he worked as an assistant editor of the second series of the American Law Reports.

In 1973, he came back home, enrolled at the Ghana School of Law for an orientation course in Customary Law, and was called to the Ghana Bar that same year. He began his legal practice in Cape coast in 1974 where he was head of the legal firm Max-idan Chambers.

One of the notable cases he handled as a lawyer was the Capt Kojo Tsikata treason trial in 1976. In that year, there was an alleged attempted coup involving Capt Tsikata, Capt Joel Sowu, Lt Latzoo, and others. Latzoo and short had been classmates at St Augustine's and therefore when he (Latzoo) approached him to defend him, he could not decline. He ended up becoming legal counsel for Tsikata and Sowu as well.

Mr.Short was also a part-time lecturer in law at the Department of Business Studies, University of Cape Coast, from 1977 to 1984 and 1992 to 1993.

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He was also vice president of the Central Regional branch of the Ghana Bar Association in 1990, member of the Ghana Law Reform Commission in 1979, and member of the Supreme court Rules committee from 1976 to 1978.

UN Tribunal

In 2004, Mr. Justice short was elected by the United Nations General Assembly, after being nominated by the government, to serve as a Judge on the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which was set up in Arusha, Tanzania. The tribunal was set up to try top-level public officials who were alleged to have planned or Orchestrated the genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Rwanda in 1994.

People who appeared before the tribunal were former ministers, army commanders, and party stalwarts, among many others.

"It was a challenging task because we were dealing with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Lawyers from all over the world appeared for the accused persons. it was a stimulating intellectual experience for me.

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It was the first genocide trial in Africa. I had to listen to horrific stories about rape, mass killings, etc". he said.

He returned to Ghana in 2009 after five years of service to the UN.


Mr. Justice Emile Francis Short was awarded the officer of the order of the volta, One of Ghana's highest national awards, in 2008 for distinguishing himself in human rights administration.

In 2005, he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, for his leadership role at CHRAJ.

In 2000, Human Rights watch awarded him the "international Recognition of Assertion of independence and impartiality ".

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He was a Millennium Excellence Awards recipient and named personality of the Year in 1999 for "his competence and selfless devotion in the true service of the Ghanaian society ".

In his working life, Mr. Justice short has been a human rights consultant for more than 13 organizations and countries.


Mr. Justice Emile Short is married to Neguest, an Ethiopian. He has three children, all of whom are resident abroad.

Story by: Rodney Tsenuokpor


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