GHANA- A number of Ghanaian government agencies and security services have been indicted by the United States (US) for several human rights abuses and violations, including extrajudicial killings.
The report cites deaths related to the 2020 Elections that remained unclear after two years of investigation; the bizarre circumstances surrounding the death of Albert Donkor, a youth leader in Nkoranza in the Bono East Region while he was in police custody; the killing of a protester as chaos followed news of Donkor’s death in police custody, stressing that “As of November, police had not completed an internal investigation into both deaths”.
The United States Department of State said in its “2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” on Ghana that: “Significant human rights issues included credible reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings, including extrajudicial killings; torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by the government or on behalf of the government; arbitrary arrest or detention; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence and threats of violence against journalists and unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists.”
Brief summary of the report
The executive summary of the report, published on the US agency’s website, listed other abuses as “substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including domestic or intimate partner violence; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex persons; laws criminalising consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, although not fully enforced; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting persons with disabilities”.
“The government took some steps to address corruption and human rights abuses by officials, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government. Impunity remained a problem, however,” it stressed.
According to the report, there were violations all over the country, including lack of respect for civil liberties, lack of general freedom of expression that extended to the media, torture, and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, as well as impunity on the part of the Ghana Police Service and detention and pretrial detention.
It pointed out that while the government generally respected the right to freedom of expression, there were some abuses, such as the arrest of the activist, Oliver Barker-Vormawor, who had posted a series of criticisms of the government on Facebook, as a sign of respect for the integrity of the person.
He was initially charged with misdemeanour offences of making false statements, but the charges were upgraded to felonies of treason and he was detained for 35 days before he was released on bail.
Members of the security forces physically attacked, harassed, and arrested journalists on an isolated basis. Many of the cases were later dropped by the authorities.
An employee of private broadcaster Connect FM was attacked by five or more police officers in plain clothes in Takoradi in February after he took pictures of the officers sitting in a restaurant holding men in handcuffs and displaying their guns.
A prominent morning show host and the Executive Director of the Alliance for Social Equity and Public Accountability were arrested the same month for accusing the First Lady of misappropriating public funds.
“Oyerepa FM was ordered by Kumasi Traditional Council to cease broadcasting in August after it broadcast a programme that the council deemed disrespectful.
During a radio interview, an influential politician and businessman accused the traditional authorities of being complicit in destructive, illegal mining in the region.
In a statement, the station said it resumed broadcasting four days later after apologizing to the council.
Furthermore, the report noted that impunity remained an issue in the Ghana Police Service, particularly with regards to corruption and bribery.
“Corruption, brutality, uneven training, lack of oversight and an overburdened judicial system contributed to police impunity. Reports of crimes were often ignored by the police.”
“In many instances, the police did not respond to complaints unless members of the public paid for police transportation and other operating expenses,” the report indicated.
Prison, detention conditions
Ghana’s prison conditions were also cited in the report, which highlighted overcrowding, inadequate sanitary conditions, a lack of medical care, physical abuse and substandard food.
The report cited a September report from the Ghana Prisons Service that said prison overcrowding had risen 15 percent since 2021 to 150 percent.
“While prisoners had access to potable water, the quantity and quality of food were inadequate.”
The prison diet lacked fruit, vegetables, and meat, forcing prisoners to rely on charitable donations and their families for food.
According to the report, the prisons’ public relations officer identified the feeding of inmates as a major issue, noting that the daily allotment of $0.12 per prisoner was not sufficient to feed the prisoners.