Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Mr Emile Short, the Human Rights Commissioner, has asked the government of President John Atta Mills to examine and implement recommendations of the Working Group of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.
He has also asked the government to, as a matter of urgency, address issues relating to the rights of prisoners and corruption.
Mr Short who is the Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), said acting on the recommendations would be one of the first steps by the government to integrate human rights in all its activities during its tenure.
In an interview, Mr Short who in the country temporarily from his duty post at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda said the recommendations given by the Council’s Working Group in May 2008, after a review of Ghana’s human rights record made 30 recommendations, of which 22 were accepted by Ghana.
These included reinforcing the campaign against discriminatory practices and violence against women and children, taking measures to eliminate harmful traditional practices, such as, trokosi and female genital mutilation (FGM) and the strengthening of judicial structures.
He said other recommendations were for the adoption of measures against corruption in the judiciary, more training and education for the police, courts and social services, while increased funding and better resourcing was recommended for CHRAJ, among others.
Mr Short spoke about the deplorable conditions of the country’s police cells and prisons that CHRAJ had for some time now called attention to.
He described the overcrowding, the incarceration of minors in prisons instead of juvenile institutions, the remand of prisoners who have been in custody for very long periods such as 14 years and the lack of proper medical facilities for inmates, as “troubling.”
He said these issues that had been frequently highlighted by CHRAJ again came up for discussion recently when the former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), Mr Tsatsu Tsikata gave a personal account after he was pardoned and released from prison.
Although he said there had been some improvement over the years, much more needed to be done.
Mr Short reminded the government and Ghanaians that that the call for prisoners’ rights was based on the principle that while persons in detention were deprived of their personal liberty, their right to all other basic rights remained intact.
Particularly, they are entitled to basic human rights, such as, the right to human dignity, right to food, adequate shelter and access to medical facilities.
He said the view held by some segments of society that it was not worth spending scarce resources on improving the conditions of persons in detention was one that was misplaced and unacceptable in any civilized society.
Mr Short said what was required to address the problem of prisoners’ rights was a concerted strategy involving the government, the Attorney General’s Office, the Police and the Prisons service.
“Considerable improvement can be achieved in a relative short time if the will to do so exists,” he added.
On corruption, Mr Short said the government’s promise to strengthen the anti-corruption bodies was welcome.
He added, however, that the promise as important as it was only a step in the fight against the complex phenomenon of corruption.
What was needed in his view was a multi-pronged strategy involving all the stakeholders, namely the government, Parliament, the anti-corruption bodies, civil society and the business sector.
He said if the government wishes to confront the canker of corruption, it had to consider, as a first step, an examination of an Action Plan developed by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition in 2000 with a view to finalizing it into a national anti-corruption policy.
The action plan identified and prioritized six strategic objectives with immediately executory actions under some objectives.
The strategic objectives were to ensure full expression of the political will of government and stakeholders (private and civil society), to streamline key public institutions, improve public financial management systems, strengthen institutional and operational capacities of key oversight bodies, restore public confidence in institutions of law and order and involve civil society in anti-corruption strategies, institutional and economic governance.

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