Bright Appiah — Executive Director of Child Rights International
Bright Appiah — Executive Director of Child Rights International

Supreme Court dismisses Child Rights suit on streetism

The Supreme Court has dismissed a suit by a non-governmental organisation that sought the enforcement of the rights of street children under the Constitution.

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In a unanimous decision last Wednesday, a seven-member panel of the apex court held that Child Rights International (CRI) failed to properly invoke the jurisdiction of the court to hear and determine the matter.

The court did not read the full reasoning behind its decision, saying it was ready and could be obtained from its registry.

One of the Justices, Justice Gabriel Pwamang, told CRI that although its grievances were genuine, the court was bereft of jurisdiction to hear the matter because its jurisdiction was not properly invoked as required by law.

The panel was presided over by the Chief Justice, Justice Gertrude Sackey Torkornoo, with Justices Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, Pwamang, Mariama Owusu, Avril Lovelace-Johnson, Prof. Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu and Yonny Kulendi constituting the full panel.

In an interview with journalists, the Executive Director of CRI, Bright Appiah, said his outfit had not given up on the fight to protect the interests of all children, including those on the streets.

According to him, CRI would continue to pursue the legal action by coming properly before the court.

“We must address child streetism because it is a very critical matter with national security implications.

According to our research, most of these children on the street get involved in criminal activities, while people also take advantage of them.

“We, therefore, want a situation where the system will deal with this problem through a policy directive to see how best we can deal with this menace,” he said.

Suit

It was the case of CRI that the 1992 Constitution protects children, and, therefore, by allowing children to fall victim to streetism, the government was violating the children’s constitutional right to education, health and human dignity, and denying them their social and economic rights.

Streetism is used to describe children who live and work on the streets due to the lack of family ties, or worse still stuck in manipulative relationships, where their guardians, or in certain cases parents, use them to support the household financially through various activities on the streets.

The applicant, whose work seeks to protect and safeguard the social, educational and constitutional rights of children, was asking the court for a number of reliefs and declaration.

Among these were the declaration that the government of Ghana was in breach of Articles 25(a), 28(1) (a), (d), (2) (3) (4), 13(1) and 37 of the 1992 Constitution for not taking urgent steps to ensure that children did not engage in work that constituted a threat to their health, education or development, and that children were not deprived of medical treatment, education or any social or economic benefit.

Again, the applicant was seeking an order directed at government to define by law penalties for child exploitation for begging or other forms of economic exploitation to punish all those who may try to benefit or gain money from children’s work; an order directed at government to improve the law on health care, by defining by law the provision of free primary health services to all poor children, children living in street situation or children in emergency situations.

Additionally, the applicant wanted an order directed at government to provide rules and procedures to be followed for the provision of free basic medical services to poor children, children in street situation or children in emergencies. 

Writer’s email: [email protected]

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