A Deputy Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Mercy Larbi, has stated that fighting human rights violations in the country must occupy a centre stage in order to improve the lives of people.
That, she explained, was because human rights bordered on everything, including livelihood, lives and one’s birthright.
She said if the human rights of people were ignored, the rights of the vulnerable included women and children would be violated and there would be arbitrary arrests of people by members of the security agencies.
Mrs Larbi said this in an interview after the opening of a training on litigation and engagement with regional human rights and treaty bodies organised for CHRAJ and selected civil society organisations (CSOs).
Why the training
A 2019 study by the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) established that most national human rights institutions in Africa had minimal interaction with the sub-regional and regional human rights treaty bodies in securing remedy for human rights violations.
Although CHRAJ has sought remedy for human rights violations through its mandate and a few cases via national courts, it has seldom approached the regional human rights bodies and that informed NANHRI to organise the three-day training for the staff of CHRAJ and CSOs to enhance CHRAJ’s capacity to actively litigate and engage the regional treaty bodies in complementing the national mechanisms to ensure human rights for all.
The training also seeks to consolidate and identify opportunities for collaboration between CHRAJ and CSOs in not only engaging the regional human rights treaty bodies but also following up on implementation of the recommendations and decisions of the regional bodies for the benefit of the rights holders.
Importance of human rights
Mrs Larbi said human rights bothered everybody whether rich or poor, therefore, by placing it at the centre stage it would help the country to develop.
“Be it economic, social or political, the development can be felt there. Besides, human rights are also about democracy which is the right to vote and so if people are allowed to vote it enhances our democracy,” she added.
She reminded Ghanaians of their rights and asked them not to allow anyone to take those rights away from them.
For those whose rights were violated, she advised them to file a complaint with the Commission and they would investigate the case and take it to court on their behalf at no cost.
“The services of CHRAJ are free so you don’t need money to file a complaint before it. The Commission is a national human rights institution and it is the institution that has been officially mandated by the constitution to protect and promote human rights. So if your rights are violated, the only place to go is CHRAJ,” she pointed out.
In her welcome address, Mrs Larbi said since the attainment of independence, the country had become party to numerous international, Africa and regional human rights institutions and it had amended some existing laws to include some of those international laws.
She said the commission had engaged in litigation before the national courts in executing its mandate to promote and protect the fundamental human rights of all persons in the country.
However, she said, it had not engaged in litigation before the Africa regional treaty bodies and that made the training very important and crucial to build the capacity of staff.
Giving an outline of the training objectives and pre-training evaluation, one of the consultants for the training, Dr Tresor Makunya, said the African Union had established three human rights regional bodies, namely the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, with each of them having different mandates.
He said although CHRAJ had done significant work at the domestic level in holding the government and state organs accountable in the implementation of the Bill of Rights and Regional Human Rights commitments but it needed to enhance its capacity to engage with the three regional human rights bodies, hence the training to help them do so.
The training would, among others, help CHRAJ to know how to litigate before the regional bodies.
NANHRI, which is considered as one of the largest regional networks within the Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions, was established in 2007 to replace the Coordinating Committee of African National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CCANI).
It currently has 46 members and its secretariat is in Nairobi.