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TITLE: GHANA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE: FEBRUARY 1995









                             GHANA


Ghana continues its transition from a single-party, 
authoritarian system to that of a constitutional democracy.  
Flight Lieutenant (retired) Jerry John Rawlings became the 
first President of the Fourth Republic, following the 
controversial elections of 1992.  This ended 11 years of 
authoritarian rule under Rawlings and his Provisional National 
Defense Council (PNDC), who had seized power from an elected 
government in 1981.  The Constitution calls for a system of 
checks and balances, with an executive branch headed by the 
President, a unicameral Parliament, an independent judiciary, 
and several autonomous commissions, such as the Commission for 
Human Rights and Administrative Justice.  While acknowledging 
irregularities, international monitors accepted the validity of 
the election results.  Four opposition parties, however, 
claimed massive fraud in the presidential election and 
boycotted the December 1992 Parliamentary elections, leaving 
the President's coalition in full control of the Parliament and 
the Government.

Several security organizations report to various government 
departments.  The police are responsible for maintaining law 
and order and come under the jurisdiction of an eight-member 
Police Council.  The Bureau of National Investigation (BNI), 
under the Minister of the Interior, handles cases considered 
critical to state security.  Allegations continue that police 
have been involved in human rights abuses, especially in areas 
remote from the capital.  Although the security apparatus is 
controlled by and responsive to the Government, monitoring, 
supervision, and education of the police in particular are 
poor.  With the majority of the population illiterate and 
unaware of their rights, human rights abuses such as beatings 
and detention without charge still go unreported.

After years of economic mismanagement, Ghana is attempting to 
rebuild its industrial base.  More than 60 percent of the 
population still draws its livelihood from the land.  Gold, 
cocoa, cocoa products, timber, and energy are major traditional 
sources of export revenues.  The Government is making slow 
progress in its efforts to privatize state-owned enterprises, 
and annual economic growth has averaged 4.5 percent since the 
inception of an economic recovery program in 1983.

The number and severity of human rights abuses continued to 
decline.  The small but independent press, human rights 
monitoring groups, and opposition parties were vigorous and 
outspoken in criticizing various aspects of government policy.  
However, the government-owned media, which reach by far the 
largest audience, did not often criticize government policies.  
Except for journalist Gershon Dompreh, who continues to serve a 
prison sentence for writing a press article deemed to be 
"economic sabotage," there are no known political prisoners or 
detainees.  Discrimination and violence against women, however, 
remained significant problems, as well as abuses stemming from 
pretrial detentions.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There was one report of an extrajudicial killing.  In April a 
7-year-old boy from Adiembra in the Brong Ahafo Region died 
after sustaining injuries during a joint police/military 
frontier demarcation exercise.  A police report said that the 
operation had been peaceful, but following rumors of the boy's 
death, the Government ordered BNI to investigate.  The BNI 
reported that there had been excesses, but failed to specify who was responsible.  The Regional Administration found the 
report inconclusive and ordered a new investigation.

On August 30, the High Court in Accra convicted the police 
inspector and constable charged with beating a prisoner to 
death on June 7, 1993, at Elmina of manslaughter but sentenced 
them to only 18 months in prison.  The journalist Kwesi Pratt 
was unsuccessful in his efforts to persuade the Government to 
investigate extrajudicial killings in the early years of PNDC 
rule, despite police professions in 1993 of willingness to 
investigate such killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution states that the dignity of all persons shall 
be inviolable and that no one shall be subjected to torture or 
other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, or 
any other condition that detracts from his dignity and worth as 
a human.  Nonetheless, police continued to beat prisoners and 
other citizens.  The authorities stated that some abuses by 
police were investigated but announced no results; there were 
no known instances of police being tried and convicted for such 
abuses.

Prisons are in most cases antiquated, and conditions are 
extremely harsh.  Most prisons are overcrowded; nutrition and 
sanitation are poor.  Although the Government has occasionally 
commuted the sentences of ill or aged prisoners, failure to 
provide adequate and timely medical care to prisoners has 
resulted in deaths.

The Government allows monitoring of prison conditions by 
members of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides protection against arbitrary arrest, 
detention, or exile, and it states that an individual detained 
shall be informed immediately, in a language he understands, of 
the reasons for his detention and of his right to a lawyer and 
to an interpreter, the latter at state expense.  It also 
requires judicial warrants for arrest and provides for 
arraignment within 48 hours.  In practice, however, many abuses 
occur, including detention without charge for longer than 48 
hours and failure to obtain a warrant for arrest.

The court has unlimited discretion regarding the setting of 
bail, which can be excessive.  It may refuse to release 
prisoners on bail and instead remand them without charge for an 
indefinite period, subject to weekly review by judicial 
authorities.  It is common to remand a prisoner into 
investigative custody.  The Constitution requires, however, 
that a detainee who has not been tried within a "reasonable" 
time shall be released either unconditionally or subject to 
conditions necessary to ensure that he appears at a later date 
for court proceedings.  Approximately 30 percent of the prison 
population consists of pretrial detainees.  Despite the 
provisions of the law, abuses occur.  People are sometimes 
detained for trivial offenses or unsubstantiated accusations.

There were no known political arrests in 1994.  The Government 
does not practice forced exile and continues to encourage 
Ghanaians with valuable skills who are living abroad to return, 
including dissidents.  In some cases the Government has offered 
amnesty.  Some former government and discredited PNDC officials 
have returned and resumed careers and political activities.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution establishes two basic levels of courts: 
superior and lower.  The superior courts include the Supreme 
Court, the Appeals Court, the High Court and regional 
tribunals.  Parliament may decree lower courts or tribunals.  
Legal safeguards are based on British legal procedures.  
Defendants are presumed innocent, trials are public, and 
defendants have a right to be present, to be represented by an 
attorney (at public expense if necessary), to present evidence, 
and to cross-examine witnesses.  In practice, authorities 
respect these safeguards.

The Constitution provides for a Commission for Human Rights and 
Administrative Justice to investigate alleged violations of 
human rights and take action to remedy proven violations.  The 
Commission was sworn in during October 1993 and has established 
offices in regional capitals and districts.  It has held 
workshops to educate the public on human rights issues.

The traditional courts operate alongside the regular courts.  
The Chieftaincy Act of 1971 gives village and other traditional 
chiefs powers in local matters, including authority to enforce 
customary tribal laws dealing with such matters as divorce, 
child custody, and property disputes.  Traditional courts fail 
to meet accepted standards of fairness and due process.

After losing a series of significant cases in 1993, the 
Government posed no serious challenges to judicial independence 
during the year.  There were no charges of judicial 
corruption.  So far as is known, there are no political 
prisoners with the exception of Gershon Dompreh, a journalist 
serving a 20-year sentence for economic sabotage.

The Government dropped its case against Kwesi Pratt, a 
political activist and journalist, and Professor Albert 
Adu-Boahen, leader of the New Patriotic Party.  The authorities 
had charged them with obstruction of justice for refusing to 
testify in a public tribunal.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

Observers assume the Government continues to engage in 
surveillance of citizens engaged in activity which it deems 
objectionable.  In the past, this included monitoring of 
telephones and mail.

Although the law requires judicial search warrants, police do 
not always obtain them.  The Constitution provides that a 
person shall be free from interference within the privacy of 
his home, property, correspondence, or communication.  This 
article has yet to be tested.

     g.  Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian 
         Law in Internal Conflicts

During the ethnic conflict in the Northern Region, which began 
in February, police used excessive force in a number of cases.  
In the regional capital of Tamale, security forces trying to 
disperse a crowd fired into it, killing at least 1 person and 
injuring 30 to 40 others.  Police also beat villagers 
indiscriminately during the course of the conflict.  In 
response to the inability of the police to control the 
situation, the Government declared a state of emergency and 
deployed regular army units to restore order.  Parliament voted 
to lift the state of emergency in August, at which time the 
army units handed authority back to the police.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, and 
opposition political parties and others have used it vigorously 
in criticizing the Government.  However, the authorities 
continued to pressure the government-run media for conformity.  
The Government dominates the print and electronic media, owning 
the radio and television stations and the two daily 
newspapers.  The official media continue to emphasize the 
positive aspects of government policies, although they also 
cover charges of corruption or mismanagement in government 
ministries and state-owned enterprises.  In general, the 
state-owned media do not criticize government policies or 
President Rawlings.  The Government occasionally subjects 
journalists to discipline or dismissal for articles deemed 
unacceptable.  As a result, the official media practice 
self-censorship.  There were occasions when the 
government-owned media carried editorials critical of the 
Government but did not criticize top officials.

Most Ghanaians obtain their news from the government-owned 
electronic media and British Broadcasting Corporation radio.  
Under the Constitution, individuals are free to own radio and 
television stations.  The Government has to date, however, 
issued no private broadcast licenses.  One firm, the 
Independent Media Corporation of Ghana, began broadcasting 
after having waited for almost 1 year without result for its 
application for a license.  The Government confiscated the 
firm's radio equipment, effectively shutting the radio station 
down.  The matter is now before the courts.

The independent press continues to publish unimpeded, with 
newspapers and magazines critical of the Government, including 
personal attacks on the President, his wife, and his close 
advisers.  However, independent newspapers and magazines tend 
to be small, poorly financed, and not widely distributed 
outside Accra.  Moreover, the Criminal Libel Law, enacted in 
1960 and based on the British model, holds the potential for 
inhibiting freedom of the press.  The law states that anyone 
who communicates a false report injuring the credit or 
reputation of the State is guilty of a felony punishable by 
imprisonment.  Foreign periodicals are sold in Accra and other 
major cities.  Issues containing articles critical of the 
Government circulate freely.

In general, the Government has not suppressed freedom of 
speech, press, or academic freedom on university campuses.  The 
National Union of Ghanian Students (NUGS), one of the more 
vocal critics of the Government, is allowed to organize and 
hold meetings.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly and 
association; it does not require permits for demonstrations.

Students injured by security forces during a March 1993 
demonstration have been compensated, but the authorities did 
not punish the police officers involved.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

There is no state-favored religion and no apparent advantages 
or disadvantages attached to membership in any particular sect 
or religion.  Foreign missionary groups have generally operated 
throughout the country with a minimum of formal restrictions.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Ghanaians and foreigners are free to move throughout the 
country without special permission.  Police checkpoints exist 
countrywide to prevent smuggling, but most are left unmanned 
during daylight hours.  Roadblocks and car searches are a 
normal part of nighttime travel in Accra.

Ghanaians are generally free to travel internationally, to 
emigrate or to be repatriated from other countries.  Of the 
10,000 Ghanaians who sought refuge in Togo following the ethnic 
conflict in the Northern Region, it is estimated that half have 
returned.  As members of the Economic Community of West African 
States (ECOWAS), Ghanaians may travel without visas for up to 
90 days in member states.

Ghana continues to host a substantial refugee population, some 
94,000 Togolese who fled to Ghana in 1993.  Ghana also provides 
refuge to an estimated 20,000 Liberians.  In addition, over 
15,000 Ghanaians residing in Liberia returned to their home 
villages, often imposing great strain on government social 
services.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Ghanaians last exercised the right to change their government 
through the democratic process in presidential elections held 
in 1992.  International observers noted serious problems in the 
electoral process but concluded, on balance, that they did not 
change the outcome.  However, opposition parties protested the 
results by boycotting subsequent parliamentary elections.

Thus, except for two independent members, all 200 members of 
Parliament belong to one of the three parties that supported 
President Rawlings, whose PNDC party won 95 percent of the 
seats.  The Government took some steps to bring the opposition 
into the political process, including electoral reform.

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of gender 
and there are no obstacles to the participation of women in 
government.  Several ministers and Council of State members are 
women.  There are 16 women parliamentarians.  Although all 
ethnic groups are represented in the Government, members of the 
Ewe ethnic group of which President Rawlings is a member, are 
overrepresented in high-level public positions.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigations of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Human rights organizations continued to grow in number and 
strength and operated without government interference or 
restriction.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, 
sex, religion, disability, language, or social status.  The 
courts are specifically empowered to enforce these prohibitions.

     Women

Ghanaian women continue to experience societal discrimination.  
Women in urban centers and those with skills and training 
encounter little overt bias, but resistance to women in 
nontraditional roles persists.  Women in the rural agricultural 
sector remain subject to traditional male dominance and 
difficult labor conditions.

Violence against women (including rape and wife beating) 
remains a significant problem.  It usually goes unreported and 
seldom comes before the courts.  The police tend not to 
intervene in domestic disputes.  The media increasingly 
reported cases of assault and rape.  Women's rights groups are 
active in educational campaigns and in programs to provide 
vocational training, legal aid, and other support to women.  
The Government is also active in educational programs in 
support of women's rights.

     Children

Within the limits of its resources, the Government is committed 
to protecting the rights and welfare of children.  There is 
little or no discrimination against females in education, but 
girls and women frequently drop out due to societal or economic 
pressures.  Statistics show an equal male/female ratio in 
school enrollments in Grade 1, dropping to 2 to 1 by Grade 6, 4 
to 1 at the secondary level, and 9 to 1 at university level.

There are traditional discriminatory practices against females 
which are injurious to health and development.  In particular, 
female genital mutilation (FGM) is a serious problem.  
According to one study, the percentage of women who have 
undergone this procedure may be as high as 30 percent, although 
most observers believe 15 percent to be more accurate.  Such 
mutilation is practiced mostly in the far northeastern and 
northwestern parts of the country.  In August Parliament passed 
a law making FGM illegal.  In September the Government charged 
a practitioner of FGM with causing harm after circumcising four 
girls, one of whom was taken to hospital bleeding severely.  
The prisoner is still in police custody.

Another practice, found primarily in the Volta region, 
constitutes abuse of children.  The tro-kosi (or "vestal 
virgin") system is a traditional practice in which a young 
girl, usually under the age of 10, is made a virtual slave to a 
fetish shrine for offenses allegedly committed by a member of 
the girl's family.  The belief is that if someone in a family 
has committed a crime, such as stealing, members of the family 
may begin to die in large numbers unless a young girl is given 
to the local fetish shrine to atone for the offense.  The girl 
becomes the virtual property of the fetish priest and may 
become his wife.  These girls are seldom allowed to go to 
school and must work on the priest's farm and perform other 
labors for him.  When the fetish slave dies or reaches 
maturity, the family is expected to replace her with another 
young girl for the fetish shrine.

The practice of tro-kosi is clearly illegal but persists 
because traditional beliefs are deep-seated.  There has been 
some minimal success in encouraging the substitution of 
sacrificial animals in place of girls.  It is estimated that 
there may be 1,000 fetish slaves bound to various shrines.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although the Government plays down ethnic differences, its 
opponents occasionally complain that it is dominated by the Ewe 
ethnic group from Eastern Ghana.  Like the President, many of 
his close advisers are Ewe, but many ministers are of different 
ethnic origins.

     People with Disabilities

The Constitution specifically provides for the rights of people 
with disabilities, including protection against exploitation 
and discrimination.  It also states that "as far as 
practicable, every place to which the public has access shall 
have appropriate facilities for disabled persons."  In 
practice, however, this provision has yet to be implemented.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

This right is restricted, as the Trades Union Ordinance confers 
broad powers on the Government to refuse to register a trade 
union.  However, the PNDC did not, and the present Government 
has not, interfered with the right of workers to associate in 
labor unions.  The law prohibits civil servants from organizing 
or joining a trade union, bargaining collectively or striking.

About 10 or 15 percent of workers belong to unions.  The 
Industrial Relations Act (IRA) of 1965 still governs trade 
unions and their activities.  The Trades Union Congress (TUC) 
is the only existing confederation, though it has no legal 
monopoly.  In recent years it has been led by experienced union 
leaders who, aided by a revised union constitution and by-laws, 
continued to define an autonomous role for the TUC within the 
PNDC regime.  In the last 3 years, the TUC has taken a somewhat 
more confrontational stance vis-a-vis the Government and has 
been quite critical of some of its economic policies.

The law recognizes the right to strike.  Under the IRA, the 
Government established a system of settling disputes, first 
through conciliation, then arbitration.  A union may call a 
legal strike if negotiations and mediation fail.  However, 
because no union has ever gone through the complete process, 
there have been no legal strikes since independence.  
Nevertheless, the Ghana Medical Association, the Ghana National 
Association of Teachers, and the University of Ghana's porters, 
drivers, and phone technicians staged major strikes in 1994 
without government retribution.  The IRA prohibits retribution 
against strikers, and this is enforced.  There has been no 
progress in implementing the Government's declared intention to 
establish labor tribunals to arbitrate industrial disputes 
certified as deadlocked.

The TUC is affiliated with the Organization of African Trade 
Union Unity (OATUU), headquartered in Accra and is a member of 
the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The IRA provides a framework for collective bargaining and some 
protection against antiunion discrimination as well.  Trade 
unions engage in collective bargaining for wages and benefits 
with both private and state-owned enterprises without 
government interference.  The Government, labor, and employers 
negotiate together, however, through a tripartite commission to 
set minimum standards for wages and working conditions.  The 
law requires employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination 
to reinstate workers fired for union activities.  No union 
leaders have been detained in recent years for union or other 
activities.

There are no functioning export processing zones in Ghana.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced labor, and it is not known to be 
practiced except in the tro-kosi system (see Section 5).  The 
International Labor Organization (ILO) continues to urge the 
Government to revise various legal provisions that permit 
imprisonment with an obligation to perform labor for offenses 
that are not countenanced under ILO Convention 105.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Labor legislation sets a minimum employment age of 15 and 
prohibits night work and certain types of hazardous labor for 
those under 18.  In practice, child employment is widespread, 
and young children of school age often perform menial tasks 
during the day in the market or collect fares on local buses.  
Observance of minimum age laws is eroded by local custom and 
economic circumstances that encourage children to work to help 
their families.  Officials occasionally punish violators of 
regulations prohibiting heavy labor and night work for 
children.  Inspectors from the Ministry of Labor and Social 
Welfare are responsible for enforcement of child labor 
regulations.  They visit each workplace annually and make spot 
checks whenever they receive allegations of violations.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

In 1991 minimum standards for wages and working conditions were 
set by a tripartite commission composed of representatives of 
the Government, labor, and employers.  The minimum wage rate 
combines wages with customary benefits, such as a 
transportation allowance.  The current daily minimum wage of 
$0.76 (739 cedis) is insufficient for a single wage earner to 
support a family.  In most cases households have multiple wage 
earners, some family farming, and other family based commercial 
activities.

The law sets the maximum workweek at 45 hours, with one break 
of at least 36 consecutive hours every 7 days.  Through 
collective bargaining, however, the basic workweek for most 
unionized workers is 40 hours.  Occupational safety and health 
regulations are in effect, and the Labor Department of the 
Ministry of Health and Social Welfare occasionally imposes 
sanctions on violators.  Safety inspectors are few, however, 
and poorly trained.  They take action if matters are called to 
their attention, but lack the resources to seek out 
violations.  Workers have the right to withdraw themselves from 
dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued 
employment, but they rarely exercise this right.
(###)

[end of document]

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