The Office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice has established a national mechanism to monitor and report on human rights issues in Ghana.

The mechanism is an inter-ministerial committee comprising of stakeholders from the: Office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations; Ministry of Education; Ministry of Information; Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources; Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection; Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Food and Agriculture; Ghana Prisons Service; Ghana Police Service; the Judicial Service of Ghana; Ghana Aids Commission; Ghana Immigration Service; Births and Deaths Registry; Legal Aid Commission; DOVSU; and the Economic and Organised Crime Office.

The Committee met on Monday, April 15, 2021, to deliberate on the way forward with regards to reporting on human rights issues to the various human rights bodies to which Ghana is committed.

In her address to open the meeting, the Solicitor-General, Mrs Helen Awo Ziwu, reminded the Committee that it has the responsibility of engaging and liaising with International and Regional Human Rights bodies, as well as organising and generally facilitating the preparation of reports to international and human rights mechanisms, preparation of responses to communications from such bodies, and follow-up on the recommendations/decisions received from such mechanisms.

Thereafter, presentations were made on Ghana’s obligations to the following human rights bodies: the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

Dr. Sylvia Adusu made the presentation on Ghana’s reporting obligation to the HRC. She stated that Ghana’s next report is due in 2022, and that it concerns various issues, including issues of discriminatory practices concerning women, children, albinos, and the disabled. She also identified issues of overcrowding in prisons, access to healthcare and access to justice, as well as crimes motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ms. Mother Teresa Brew delivered the presentation on Ghana’s reporting obligation to the ICCPR to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.She informed that the Covenant commits State Parties to respect the Civil and Political Rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech.

She discussed some noteworthy recommendations from the Committee and responses by Ghana on issues regarding harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation, and mental health matters, such as the regulation and control of ‘prayer camps’ with a view to preventing ill-treatment, including inhumane practices of the shackling of persons with mental health problems. She stated that Ghana was required to submit a report on 15th July 2020, but failed to do so due to the pandemic, and urged that work begin immediately on the report.

Mrs. Molly Nana Kodie delivered the presentation on Ghana’s reporting obligation to ECOSOC. She stated that ECOSOC is responsible for promoting higher standards of living, tackling health problems, facilitating international cultural and educational cooperation, and encouraging universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. She informed that the thematic focus of ECOSOC for 2021 is ‘Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: Building an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.’

According to Mrs. Kodie, Ghana was a member from 2010 to 2012, 2015 to 2017, and 2018 to 2020. She hopes that Ghana will take the requisite steps to be re-elected in 2022. The submission of reports to ECOSOC is voluntary.

Ms. Ama Asare Korang made the presentation on Ghana’s reporting obligation to the ACHPR. She informed that the ACHPR was established with the mandate to promote and protect human and peoples’ rights in Africa. State Parties are required to submit, every two years, a report on the legislative or other measure taken by that State with the view of giving effect to the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed by the ACHPR’s charter.

In addition, State Parties to the Maputo Protocol are required to submit, every two years, a report on the legislative, judicial, administrative, and other measures taken with a view to ensuring the full realisation of the rights and freedoms contained in the Protocol in respect of the rights of women in their respective states. According to Ms. Asare Korang, Ghana is late in submitting 10 State reports and has never submitted a report under the Maputo Protocol.

Mrs. Nana Abuaa Otchere delivered a presentation on the visits of Special Rapporteurs to Ghana. Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the HRC and are mandated to act independently of Governments.

As such, they play an important role in monitoring sovereign nations and democratically elected Governments and policies. Special Rapporteurs often conduct fact finding missions to countries to investigate allegations of human rights violations.

They can only visit countries that have agreed to invite them. Aside fact-finding missions, they regularly assess and verify complaints from alleged victims of human rights violations. By inviting a Special Rapporteur, the concerned Government commits to ensuring free, confidential and unsupervised interviews with victims, families of victims, legal representatives, detainees and civil society representatives as a whole in accordance with the terms of reference for fact finding missions by special procedures.

They also commit to ensuring free and unrestricted access to all regions as well as to all places of detainees might be kept. Country visits often take place for a period of one to two weeks. Mrs. Otchere informed that in August 2021, Ghana will be expecting a visit from the Special Rapporteur on the Implications on Human Rights of the Environmentally Sound Management and Disposal of Hazardous Substances and Wastes.

The Committee was urged to begin work immediately in order to have the outstanding reports ready and on time. With this meeting, the Committee’s work has begun.