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General News
US Report On Govt’s Human Rights Record 2/22/2007
US Report Damns Npp Government’s Human Rights Record (PART 1)
---2005 Report cites murder of Molbilla and Lord Commey’s “Action Troopers” among other human rights iniquities
Palaver -- The US Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2005 on Ghana is a damning account of the NPP Government’s record on human rights. The Report was issued by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour and released on March 8, 2006. Among the violations reported on were the following:

• Police use of excessive force, which resulted in deaths

• Vigilante justice

• Harsh and life-threatening prison conditions

• Police corruption and impunity

• Arbitrary arrests and detentions

• Prolonged pre-trial detentions

• Infringement on citizens’ privacy rights

• Arrest, detention, interrogation, and harassment of journalists

• Forcible dispersal of demonstrations

• Corruption in all branches of government

• Violence against women and children

• Female genital mutilation (FGM)

• Societal discrimination against women, persons with disabilities, homosexuals, and persons with HIV/AIDS

• Trafficking in women and children

• Ethnic discrimination and politically and ethnically motivated violence • Child labour, including forced child labour

Starting with the section on “Respect for the Integrity of the Person: the Report pointed out the following human rights abuses:
Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
At year’s end the trial of three security officers charged with the December 2004 suspected political killing of the regional chairman, Issa Mobilla of the opposition Convention People’s Party (CPP) was ongoing. The CPP chairman died from abuse sustained in military custody, according to an autopsy report.

Security forces were responsible for several deaths during the year. On January 9, superior military officials reportedly ordered the fellow seamen of 25-year-old Ordinary Seaman Philip Kuekebey to beat him and leave him in a guardroom for 21 days without medical attention. Kuekebey subsequently died from his injuries. The military denies he was beaten. Kuekebey reportedly had been caught jumping a barracks wall when retuning from celebrating a soccer game victory. The superiors who ordered his torture were allegedly supporters of the rival team. According to military authorities a medical inquiry determined that the deceased did not die as a result of torture but rather as a result of failure to take prescribed medicine. The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the deceased’s family disputed these findings since photographs of the body show wounds.

In May an elderly woman in Dormaa, Brong Ahafo Region, reportedly died after a policeman struck her in the chest with his elbow. The woman had objected when six policemen assaulted her son, including one officer who struck the boy with a gun barrel. No information regarding an investigation or disciplinary action against the officer was available at year’s end.

Despite calls by opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) party members for an official inquiry into alleged security force abuses during the 2003 clashes between NPP and NDC supporters in Tamale, Northern Region, no judicial inquiry occurred by year’s end; the government continued to deny the allegations.

A police investigation into the 2003 incident in which a bystander was killed when police officers fired warning shots to disperse a crowd was ongoing at year’s end.

The father of a 16-year-old from Nsuaem, Western Region, who police denied killing during a mob attack in March 2004, petitioned the inspector general of police for an investigation into his son’s death. The new inspector general of police referred the petition to the police legal directorate for advice.
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits such practices; however, there continued to be credible reports that police beat and abused suspects, prisoners, demonstrators, and other citizens. Security force use of torture resulted in at least one death during the year. Severe beatings of suspects in police custody reportedly occurred throughout the country but largely went unreported. In many cases, police denied allegations or claimed that force was justified. On March 18, police officers allegedly beat the traditional ruler of the Mfantsiman District who was wanted for theft.

On September 26, in Accra, police officers acting on orders of a superior reportedly stripped a teacher of his trousers and beat him with hockey sticks after the teacher allegedly trespassed across a courtyard. The inspector general of police personally apologised to the victim and directed the police administration to pay his medical bills and otherwise compensate him. The police officer involved was admonished.

On October 21, a police officer in Sunyani allegedly fired shots at a taxi whose driver was evading them. One of the bullets lodged close to the spine of a bystander along the road.

There were no developments in other 2004 cases of police beatings.

Investigations were ongoing in the June 2004 case involving police beatings of political party activists.

There were reports of intra-party clashes. In April, in Asawase, a dispute between the ruling NPP and opposition NDC parties became violent, resulting in injuries. In August a similar dispute in Odododiodoo, resulted in injuries and property destruction. In December some members of the NDC said intra-party rivals physically attacked them, and a number of party members resigned in protest.

NPP supporters beat a journalist during the year.

Authorities abandoned the trial of the four suspects involved in a 2003 bombing outside the residence of the regional NPP organiser in Ho, Volta Region.

Machomen (party thugs) and land guards (private security enforcers hired by citizens to settle private disputes and vendettas) caused injury and property damage during the year. The machomen were organised privately and operated outside the law. There were some allegations of police complicity with these extra-legal security agents. Police denied any involvement and arrested a number of land guards some of whom were prosecuted and jailed in Accra and Tema.

During the year the NPP’s National Organiser was secretly taped stating that he commanded up to 1,100 “action troopers” who could disrupt elections and intimidate voters. He later told media that these party supporters were only present at the polls to ensure fair proceedings.
Prison and Detention Centre Conditions
Prison conditions in most cases were harsh and sometimes life threatening. Much of the prison populations was held in buildings that were originally old colonial forts or abandoned public or military buildings, with poor ventilation and sanitation, dilapidated construction, and limited space.

According to the 2004 Prisons Service Annual Report, approximately 11,700 prisoners were held in prisons designed to hold 6,500. During a visit to Winneba Central Prison during the year, CHRAJ found 45 prisoners occupying a room designed for 3. Medical facilities were inadequate, and the prisons supplied only the most basic medicines. Prisoners relied on families or outside organisations for additional food, medicine, and other necessities. A shortage of bedding and clothing for prisoners continued. Overcrowding contributed to a high prevalence of communicable diseases. Some suspects allegedly pled guilty to be removed from unsanitary police cells and sent to prison.

According to the prisons service report, 110 prisoners died in 2004 from diseases such as tuberculosis, AIDS, and anaemia.

In certain facilities female prisoners in police cells were only separated by a few feet and were within the reach of male prisoners. In the Accra Central police cells, female prisoners were kept in a small vestibule, only separated from men by a gate. The law stipulates that regardless of the offence, female convicts should be tested for pregnancy upon incarceration, and that pregnant convicts should be held in a facility where their health needs could be met. Role of the Police and Security Apparatus.

The police service came under repeated criticism following incidents of police brutality, corruption, and negligence. Impunity remained a problem. Delays in prosecuting suspects, rumours of police collaboration with criminals, and the widespread perception of police ineptitude contributed to an increase in vigilante justice during the year. There were also credible reports that police extorted money from local businesses by acting as private debt collectors and by arresting citizens in exchange for bribes from detainees’ disgruntled business associates.
Arrest and Detention
On August 29, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative criticised the police for routinely detaining persons for more than 48 hours without a warrant signed by a magistrate. A 2003 Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) survey found that 46 percent of the persons arrested were not informed of the charges against them, 51 percent were not read their rights, 67 percent reported they were not given the opportunity to contact a lawyer, and 44 percent believed they were presumed guilty from the onset.

At times persons were detained for trivial offences or based on unsubstantiated accusations such as insulting behaviour, petty stealing, and disturbing the public peace. Authorities routinely failed to notify prisoners’ families of their incarceration; such information often was obtained only by chance. The court has unlimited discretion to set bail, which was often prohibitively high. The court may refuse to release prisoners on bail and instead remand them without charge for an indefinite period, subject to weekly review by judicial authorities. On occasion, police also demanded money from suspects as a precondition for their release on bail.
Denial of Fair Trial
The law provides for an independent judiciary; however, the judiciary was inefficient and subject to influence and corruption.

On September 29, addressing judiciary inefficiency, the chief justice noted that one judge had adjourned three cases 96, 120, and 127 times, respectively. In August 2004 the Chief Justice noted that some judges had not heard a single case or written a decision all year. A 2003 report adopted by the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Judiciary included accounts of extortion, misuse of remand, bail and contempt of court charges for extortion, and acceptance of gifts or money in exchange for expedited or postponed cases, or for losing records.
Trial Procedures
The trial of the former head of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation on charges of causing financial loss to the state was ongoing at year’s end.

The trial of a retired military personnel arrested in 2004 for allegedly plotting a coup against the government was ongoing at year’s end. The trial of two suspects accused of plotting a coup during the year also was ongoing at year’s end.

Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home or Correspondence The law prohibits such actions; however, in practice the government sometimes infringed on privacy rights.

Although the law requires judicial search warrants, police seldom obtained them in practice.

Opposition party activists claimed the government engaged in surveillance and harassment of those it perceived to be opposed to the ruling party. Some civil society organisations expressed concerns that the government used surveillance, free of any oversight of regulation.


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