Attorney-General touts Ghana’s strong Human Rights Record at UN

By Edem Agblevor, ISD || contributor
Human Rights Attorney-General touts Ghanas strong Human Rights Record at UN
FEB 3, 2023 LISTEN

Ghana has presented its National Report on Human Rights at the 4th Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, who by a delegation led, said Ghana's record in the delivery of social and economic rights and developments in the field of civil and political rights are important indications of the country's strong human rights record on the international stage.

He highlighted the establishment of the Free Secondary School (Free SHS) programme in 2017, as well as the development of other pre-tertiary options like the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education Programme and Technical and Vocational Education and Training Institutions that have increased enrolment in the institutions.

He said the Back-to-School Campaign's goal of ensuring that children, including pregnant school-going girls and people with disabilities, have access to education as well as the National Functional Literacy Programme that guarantees access to adult education are other notable examples of the extension of socio-economic rights to citizens.

According to Mr Dame, the denial of social and economic rights can lead to frequent protests by the populace and be a catalyst for instability in any country.

In the report, he discussed Ghana's Justice for All Programme, which has been a key tool in reducing prison overcrowding, hence, under this programme, special courts are established each year to handle cases involving remand prisoners in prisons.

Prisoners on remand without trial or whose trial has been unnecessarily delayed, he said, received a summary review of their cases and are promptly released from custody.

“It received a boost last year with the introduction of virtual court sessions, which allowed remand prisoners to remain in the security of their prison while still having their application for bail heard and approved without having to appear in person in court,” he said.

Mr Dame also stated that Ghana remains committed to ensuring the rights related to name, identity and nationality are protected. In that regard, he alluded to steps the government was taken to strengthen these rights, including the use of technology to register births; the free registration policy for children below the age of one; the visit by officers of the Births and Deaths Registry to refugee camps to register new births of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants who live in the camps.

Addressing questions on the protection of LGBTQ+ persons from violence, the Attorney-General stated that Ghana’s laws prohibit all forms of violence and brutality targeted at any group of persons.

He stressed that the State does not lend its support to any person or organization that advocates for or inflicts harm on all persons including minority groups and those of different sexual orientations.

The Minister applauded the work of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on their effective human rights advocacy in Ghana but admonished them to recognize that there are permissible limits to freedoms and human rights, agree to build consensus with the government on more critical matters and remember that the goal is to ultimately enable citizens to determine their future in dignity and independence.

The Attorney-General said no single nation can say that it has achieved all in the protection of human rights but Ghana has done very well. “I am confident that you will all agree with me that attaining a perfect human rights record is an exercise in progress and that no Member State can claim perfection.

However, we go back home confident about the credentials of Ghana as a strong democratic nation with a formidable reputation in the protection of human rights and freedoms of all persons and with an independent and fearless Judiciary ready to provide a remedy for abuses”, Mr Dame added.

The delegation that went to Geneva included the Honourable Joe Osei-Owusu, representing the Speaker of Parliament, The Commissioner of Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Mr Joseph Whittal, Senior Officials of the Office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, the Ghana Prisons Service as well as Ghana’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva.

The UPR mechanism of the Human Rights Council was established by the United Nations in 2006 and involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 United Nations Member States.

It provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to fulfil their human rights obligations and to share good practices in this regard. Each state’s presentation is assessed by all the member states who may elect to present questions on various matters.

The Universal Periodic Review process offers an effective way to monitor progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) implementation.