Ghana prison treatment degrading – UN Expert

prisonPrison conditions in Ghana keep worsening as the rate of overcrowding rises, according an international human rights expert.

After a week-long official duty to Ghana, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, expressed deep concerns about the situation of overcrowding in prisons in Ghana.

“The overcrowding rate in some places that I visited is easily between 200 to 500%,”Mr Méndez said last week at a press briefing in Accra.

According to the Argentine national, overcrowding gives rise to other human rights violations such as poor quality and quantity of food, poor hygiene, lack of adequate sleeping accommodation, insufficient air ventilation, a high risk of contamination of diseases, as well as very limited access to medical treatment, recreational activities or work opportunities.

Mr. Méndez added “These conditions constitute in themselves a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

On juvenile treatment, the UN expert said he came across and documented a “clear case of caning used as a disciplinary measure against several youth” at the Senior Correctional Centre in Accra, the only facility dedicated to juveniles.

He therefore urged the Ghanaian authorities to “conduct an immediate independent and impartial inquiry to establish accountability for this serious act of torture against children”.

During his eight-day mission, the Special Rapporteur also visited two prayer camps north of Cape Coast. “I saw patients chained to the floor or walls of their cells or chained or tied to trees for prolonged periods of time,” said the expert.

The rights expert, who visited Ghana at the invitation of the Government, met with relevant authorities, the judiciary, national human rights institutions, civil society, international and regional organisations, victims and their families.

The Special Rapporteur will present a country report with his observations and recommendations to be presented at the next session of the Human Rights Council in March 2014.

By Ekow Quandzie

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