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09.04.2008 General News

Court orders interview of 22 refugees

Court orders interview of 22 refugees
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Court grants permission to rights groups to interview detained refugees

An Accra Fast Track High Court has ordered the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) to allow four legal practitioners from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and the Legal Resource Centre (LRC) to interview 22 Liberian refugees in their custody.

This is to enable the two institutions to verify the status of the 22 persons in the custody of the GIS.

This followed the filing of a motion on notice for writ of Habeas Corpus on behalf of Theresa Cheddah Dogbey and 22 other refugees. GIS personnel escorted the 23 applicants to the court premises on Tuesday.

The Habeas Corpus was filed against the Minister of Interior and the Inspector General of Police. The two were to produce the bodies of the applicant and 22 others being detained in a cell of the GIS headquarters.

GIS and Ministry of Interior are to justify the continued detention of the applicants and give reasons why the court should not order their release.

CHRI and LRC are seeking an order of injunction restraining the Minister of the Interior, the IGP and Director of GIS from taking further action, including the deportation of the applicants.

In an affidavit in support of the motion, Ms Dogbey said on March 17, this year, she was among 630 women and children who were arrested and detained at Kordiabe Training Centre in the Greater Accra Region.

According to her she was a registered refugee with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR in Accra.

She said her 10-year-old daughter Joetta Solo, who was at the moment resident at Buduburam and her husband had been issued with refugee identity cards.

The applicant said at about 1800 hours on March 31, she and 16 other women and seven children were transferred to GIS in preparation for deportation pointing out that her detention was unlawful.

In her submission in court, Nana Oye Lithur told the court, presided over by Mr Justice P.K. Gyeasayor, a Court of Appeal Judge, that she had no information on the applicants except Theresa Cheddah Dogbey.

She said they had no information on the 22 other applicants because GIS had refused to give them access to the applicants.

She argued that Theresa was a registered refugee and was entitled to remain in Ghana and she needed the protection of the court even if she was a non-citizen.

She said the applicants were unlawfully arrested at Buduburam in the Central Regional and sent to Kordiabe and later escorted to cells of GIS, Accra.

Nana Oye said it was unfortunate that the Police and Ministry of the Interior came out to say that they were engaged in an unlawful demonstration and had violated the Public Order Act.

"As far as the refugees were concerned, they thought they had committed an offence. If that is the basis, why are they not on trial?"

According to her, among those in custody, were some minors adding that, this was against the Children's Rights law.

While Mr Jones Appleh represented the Ministry of the Interior, Mrs Evelyn Keelson, Principal State Attorney, represented the Attorney General.

The court adjourned the matter to Monday for the CHRI and LRC to interview the 22 applicants and complete their motion.

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