UN to review Ghana’s human rights record

The 14th Session of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights’ (UNHCR) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) will on Tuesday October 23 review Ghana’s human rights record over the past four years.

The Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC) headed by Nana Oye Lithur, together with Amnesty International Ghana Country Director, Mr Lawrence Amesu, made a submission for the UPR which summarised the human rights situation in Ghana from 2009 to 2012.

This report was prepared using information collated from HRAC research, investigative missions, stakeholder research, and other relevant sources, such as information obtained from partner non-governmental organizations, the media, and academia.

In a statement to the Ghana News Agency signed by HRAC Executive Director Nana Oye Lithur said the report highlighted a number of different human rights abuses in Ghana which remain topical in recent times.

The report acknowledged significant advancement made in the quest for abolition of the death penalty, highlighting the government’s acceptance of the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee which include removing the death penalty from Ghana’s constitution.

To achieve this, the issue needs to be taken to the people of Ghana in a referendum, which will hopefully happen without unreasonable delay.

The injustice of forced evictions was given centre stage when more than 1,000 people were left homeless after the Accra Metropolitan Assembly demolished the slum community at Odawna Railway and destroyed market stalls and containers in Kaneshie in January of this year.

The report said forced evictions violate individuals human rights because often, there is not sufficient consultation or notice prior to the evictions, and the evictions are sometimes carried out whilst people are sleeping, leaving members more vulnerable and at higher risk of injury.

Furthermore, there is no option provided for alternative location or access to legal aid, nor any compensation for the affected persons.

It said since this issue was exposed due to the actions of HRAC and other NGO’s and media organisations there have been no reports of forced evictions to date.

The report said the Government of Ghana could still do more to protect the rights of these communities by enacting a National Evictions and Demolition Policy that conforms to International Standards, however, in this area Ghana appears to be moving in the right direction.

It said many of the other human rights abuses identified in HRAC’s submission still remain pervasive in Ghana. HRAC is actively advocating on many of these issues, including fighting against gender based violence in schools and pushing for the amendment and passing of a right to information bill in Ghana.

The report said the government must prioritise the passing of the Right to Information Bill, as it allows the public to hold the government accountable and encourages transparency in government spending.

The report focusses on the rights of Most-At-Risk-Populations (MARPs), specifically Female (Commercial) Sex Workers (FSW’s); and Injecting Drug Users (IDU’s).

HRAC’s recommendations include training Ghana Police Service officers in human rights laws in order to ensure the protection and fair treatment of MARPs and the review and decriminalisation of laws affecting MARPs by the Government of Ghana.

The report said, stories of stigma and discrimination against MARPs, particularly those who are living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIVs) are common.

HRAC recommends that legislation should be invoked for protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and HIV/AIDs status.

The report said one of the most crucial and distressing human rights issues that Ghana is facing is the treatment of the mentally ill.

Recently, a documentary and fact-finding mission exposed the horrendous and degrading conditions in prayer camps – which are the most common option for treatment of the mentally ill – and psychiatric hospitals, which remain under resourced, under staffed and overcrowded.

In 2011, HRAC trained leaders of prayer camps in order to sensitise them to correct treatment of the mentally ill. It said more projects of this nature are urgently needed, as is the inclusion of the Right to Health in Ghana’s Constitution.

It said funding and resources should be increased for the mental health sector to improve services in psychiatric care in Ghana and uphold the human rights of the mentally ill, who currently languish in abject conditions with little improvement in their illness due to lack of proper care.

Source: GNA

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