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Krofrom riots buttress need for police complaints body – CHRI

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Ms. Mina Mensah
Ms. Mina Mensah

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) says conflicting reports about the death of a 22-year-old man allegedly manhandled by police in Kumasi, reinforce the need for Ghana to establish an Independent Civilian Police Complaint Commission (ICPCC).

The human rights group said media reports and eye witness account had it that the police maltreated the victim (Osei Tawiah) at Krofrom, a suburb of Kumasi, until he died, after accusing him of being an armed robbery suspect.

An autopsy facilitated by the police points to death by natural causes but the family and the residents of Krofrom disagreed with the report that cleared the police of any wrong doing leading the residents going on rampage.

“The response of both the community and the Regional Police Command after the rampage leaves a lot to be desired,” Head of CHRI, Ms Mina Mensah said in a statement.

She said the development supported repeated calls by CHRI since 2005, for government to establish an independent civilian police commission to investigate such occurrences to repose civilian confidence in the police service.

CHRI said its Africa Office had since 2005, been calling for the establishment of an independent body to investigate complaints against the Police.

“This call was finally reiterated by Police Administration in March 2014 by the then Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr Alhassan. As part of a launch to begin a process to rebuild the image of the Ghana Police Service (GPS), Mr Alhassan indicated that one weakness to police efficiency is the ‘lack of a civilian oversight mechanism – independent civilian complaint review.’

“Although steps were taken to ensure the establishment of this body, two years down the line the status of this initiative is not clear,” CHRI said.

The statement said information available to CHRI indicates that after a memo was presented to Cabinet by the Ministry of Interior, the former referred the issue to the Police Council and that is where the trail ends.

“The question is are we to take it that after the exit of Mr Alhassan and the then Minister Mr Mark Woyongo, the ICPCC is no longer relevant?”

“The recent controversy surrounding the death of Osei Tawia and the posturing of the Ashanti Regional Police Commander DCOP Kofi Boakye indicates that an independent body is needed as a matter of urgency.

“It is obvious there is more to this issue than what the public is being told and this mystery can only be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties when an independent investigation is conducted.

“This is especially important when reports of a number of such deaths allegedly at the hands of the police, investigated by PIPS are kept as closely guarded secrets although outcomes of such investigations are of high public interest.

“The GPS deems these reports paid for by the tax payer as their property, which can only be made public if the IGP deems it necessary,” the statement said.

It said: “CHRI is of the view that going on rampage is not the way to go, and the police need to keep order, in a situation where the alleged use of brute force by police officials is purported to have caused the problem in the first place.

“One would have thought the Regional Commander would have been more circumspect than to go about threatening aggrieved residents who have lost someone with force.”

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative noted it is a fact that the Police is allowed to use force but added however, that when legitimate power is used illegitimately it becomes a crime.

“Freedom of association, freedom of movement and freedom of expression are all constitutionally guaranteed rights and the police must be careful how they try to curtail those in situations of this nature.”

“Democratic policing and public order is based primarily on the rule of law, intelligence gathering and engagement, not brute force or bullying.”

The statement also said that in a democracy, the “how” of keeping public order counts as much as keeping that order and the Police should not paint a picture of “them against us”, through their attitude and utterances.

“Therefore, to promote peace and ensure that the family of Osei Tawiah and residents of Krofrom do not feel short-changed, CHRI calls on the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to investigate the incident.”

“We call on the Police Council, the Ministry of Interior and the Ghana government to inform Ghanaians on the status of the independent civilian police complaint body and as a matter of urgency speed up the process of setting it up.”

“We also call on the IGP to make public reports of investigations conducted by PIPS on similar incidents to build confidence in the work of PIPS and by extension the GPS in relation to investigating their own.”

Source: GNA

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