N international jurist yesterday challenged judges in Ghana to broaden their knowledge on human rights principles and give expression to the intention of the government to adhere to them.
Justice Hassan B. Jallow, the United Nations Under Secretary-General and Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR); Justice K. Date-Bah, a Supreme Court judge; Ms Evelyn A. Ankumah, the Executive Director of Africa Legal Aid (AFLA), and Ms Anna Bossman, the acting Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) were speaking at a two-day rights-based judicial workshop for some members of the Judiciary.
Justice Jallow said when governments ratified international instruments on human rights, they demonstrated their intention to adhere to them and so the onus lay on the courts and judges to give expression to that intention and enable the people to enjoy those rights.
Delivering the keynote address at the workshop, Justice Jallow pointed out that it was unacceptable and impracticable to have a body of international legislation on human rights that was only binding on countries at the international level.
He asked judges to be progressive front-line advocates in ensuring the adoption, respect and observance of the broad array of human rights principles by governments and the people.
He stressed that modern trends did not permit legal practice that was carried out in isolation and apart from international human rights legislation.
Justice Jallow said the enjoyment of rights by people was not automatically assured by benevolent and enlightened governments but by consistent advocacy and information sharing by civil society organisations, human rights-based groups and all other development partners.
He emphasised the importance of that in entrenching human rights principles in countries, as infringement affected the whole spectrum of a governance system.
Justice Date-Bah, who stood in for the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Wood, said Article 33 (5) of the 1992 Constitution gave judges great opportunities in applying all the varied categories of human rights in their judgements, thereby ensuring their institution in the democratic system.
He said the importance of human rights to good governance could not be overemphasised, adding that evidence showed that disregard for and contempt of these principles led to barbaric acts.
That was why all written constitutions had human rights provisions, he pointed out.
Justice Date-Bah urged judges to be abreast of new developments in international human rights provisions to enhance their practice.
Ms Ankumah stressed that national courts and human rights institutions had the first responsibility in upholding human rights in countries, hence the workshop to build the capacity of judges in that area.
Ms Bossman, who was the moderator for the session, emphasised the importance of human rights in national development and reminded Ghanaians that pursuing a political agenda without a strong human rights basis was not worth the effort.
The two-day workshop is being organised by AFLA, CHRAJ and the Ghana Judicial Training Institute as the first in a series scheduled for a three-year period.
DAILY GRAPHIC, SATURDAY MARCH 29, 2008