The US government has released its human rights report for the year 2012, and the chapter on Ghana captures police impunity, human trafficking and corruption in all areas of government as human rights problems.
The report assesses human rights conditions around the globe in 2012.
Acknowledging Ghana’s constitutional democracy which has a strong presidency and a unicameral parliament, it noted that there were instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of government authorities.
The most important human rights problems included trafficking in persons; exploitive child labor, including forced child labor; and harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, the report says, adding that other human rights problems included use of excessive force by police, resulting in deaths and injuries; prolonged pretrial detention; arbitrary arrest of journalists; corruption in all branches of government; violence against women and children, including female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); societal discrimination against women, persons with disabilities, and persons with HIV/AIDS; ethnic killings and vigilante violence; ethnic discrimination and politically motivated violence; and societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals.
The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses, but police impunity remained a problem, the report noted.
“There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings; however, use of excessive force by security forces resulted in the deaths of several armed criminal suspects and other persons during the year,” it said.
The report among others said while the constitution and law prohibit such practices, “there were credible reports that police beat and otherwise abused suspects, prisoners, and other citizens.”
Severe beatings of suspects in police custody reportedly occurred throughout the country but generally were unreported in official channels, it said.
The report said police generally denied allegations or claimed that the level of force used was justified. Military officials also reportedly mistreated persons. During the year several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), lawyers, and civil society organizations publicly criticized police use of excessive force.
“In 2009 these organizations called for the inspector general of police (IGP) to take action against security force members involved in abuse. As a result, the government conducted awareness-raising campaigns and took internal disciplinary actions against offending security officials in 2011 and 2012,” it added.
It also noted that in June the IGP ordered the Brong Ahafo regional commander of police to submit an investigative report in response to allegations of maltreatment of a suspect in the custody of the Techiman police. The suspect claimed police chained him to a pole, exposed him to the sun, and denied him the use of bathroom facilities.
The report said corruption was present in all branches of government, citing the media and NGOs.
“The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and some officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices,” it said.
It pointed out that for example, police set up barriers to extort money from motorists, and judicial officials accepted bribes to expedite or postpone cases or to “lose” records. The World Bank’s most recent Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption was a problem, it added.
On press freedom, the report said although the constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, the government sometimes restricted those rights during the year. The police arbitrarily arrested and detained journalists, and some practiced self-censorship.
It noted that there were more than 1,500 newspapers and magazines, approximately 250 FM radio stations, and 28 television stations registered with the National Media Commission (10 were not operational).
“The most popular publications were state owned, while the majority of television and radio stations had private ownership,” it said.
“In March the government banned all media outlets owned by Multimedia Limited from reporting on any government, including ministerial, events. The ban affected television channels, the country’s most frequented Web site, and various radio stations. The government stated it introduced the ban because Multimedia Limited was unfair and biased against the late President Mills’ administration. The government later rescinded the ban after an outcry from civil society and press freedom advocates,” it added.
According to the report, in December some radio stations reported their broadcasts were being jammed allegedly due to their inflammatory programming.
The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction, it said.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi