• Oliver Barker-Vormawor is said by the report to have had his rights abused by the system when he was arrested for a Facebook post
• Oliver Barker-Vormawor is said by the report to have had his rights abused by the system when he was arrested for a Facebook post

US agency details human rights abuses in Ghana

The United States (US) has indicted various Ghanaian state authorities, including security services and agencies, for a list of human rights breaches and abuses, including extra-judicial killings.

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It cites 2020 Elections-related deaths which were yet to be unravelled after two years of investigation; the bizarre circumstances surrounding the death of one 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 concluded an internal investigation into both deaths”.

In its “2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” on Ghana, the United States Department of State said: “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.”

Executive summary

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.

Examples

Itemising the areas it covered such as the respect for civil liberties, general freedom of expression which was extended to the media, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and other related abuses, as well as impunity on the part of the Ghana Police Service, detention and pretrial detention, the report said there were breaches across the board.

On respect for the integrity of the person, for instance, it said while the government generally respected the right to freedom of expression, there were some abuses and referred to the well-published issue involving the activist, Oliver Barker-Vormawor, a critic of the government who was arrested in response to a series of Facebook posts.

The report said after initially charging him with misdemeanour offences of making false statements, police upgraded the charges to felony treason and held him in prison for 35 days before a judge released him on bail.

“There were isolated attacks on and harassment and arrests of journalists by members of security forces. Authorities later dropped many of the cases.

In February in Takoradi, five or more police in plain clothes attacked a producer with the privately-owned broadcaster Connect FM after he photographed the officers while they sat in a restaurant with their guns displayed and holding men in handcuffs.

In the same month, police arrested the Executive Director of the Alliance for Social Equity and Public Accountability and a prominent morning show host for accusing the First Lady of misappropriating public funds.  

“In August, the Kumasi Traditional Council ordered Oyerepa FM to stop broadcasting after it broadcast a programme which the council considered disrespectful of their office.

The station had hosted a politician and businessman who accused the traditional authorities of condoning destructive, illegal mining in the region by their inaction.

The station resumed broadcasting four days later after issuing apologies to the council,” it stated.

Also, the report said impunity remained a significant problem in the Ghana Police Service, particularly regarding corruption and bribery.  

“Corruption, brutality, uneven training, lack of oversight and an overburdened judicial system contributed to police impunity.

Police often failed to respond to reports of crimes.

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

The conditions within Ghana’s prisons were also mentioned in the report, with the perennial challenges of overcrowding, inadequate sanitary conditions, the lack of medical care, physical abuse and substandard and inadequate food cited.

It referred to a September report of the Ghana Prisons Service which said prison overcrowding stood at 150 per cent of capacity, an increase of 15 per cent from 2021.  

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“While prisoners had access to potable water, the quantity and quality of food were inadequate.

Meals routinely lacked fruit, vegetables or meat, forcing prisoners to rely on charitable donations and their families to supplement their diet.

The prisons’ public relations officer identified feeding of inmates as a key problem and noted that the GH¢1.80 ($0.12) daily allotment per prisoner was not sufficient to feed prisoners,” the report stated. 

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