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26.04.2007 General News

CHRI supports police reforms

By Peter Abban

The Eastern Regional Minister, Yaw Barimah, on Tuesday said that the Ghana Police Service has performed its role of maintaining law and order commendably, but has equally given room for some of its personnel to trample upon the rights of the people they are mandated to protect. He said the apparent gross violation of human rights by some of police personnel has created an unpleasant perception in the minds of the general public.

The Minister made the observation at a public hearing at Koforidua on "improving the relationship between the Police and the public in Ghana," organised by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. It was funded by the British High Commission and supported by the Ghana Police Service.

Mr Barimah said even though the police exist to facilitate the delivery of justice, they and the public have had a tense relationship fraught with mistrust, suspicion and antagonism. He observed that despite the reversion to constitutional rule, traces of colonial historical antecedents still find their expression in the conduct of the police, stressing that there appears to lack an effective mechanism of accountability within and outside the Service to ensure that the police is responsive to public concerns.

The New Juaben Municipal Chief Executive, Nana Kwasi Adjei Boateng noted that recently, the Police Service has come under a lot of siege and it is being labelled as corrupt, not sensitive to the plight of the public, out for extra money, cheating, and protecting criminals, amongst other charges. He said these pose a real credible challenge for them, and appealed to all within the Service to help address these concerns.

To this end, the MCE said, it is incumbent on the Police to endeavour to raise their image and fight hard to regain their loss of respect while they ensure that the population is also educated on the role and procedures of the police as an organisation and as a system.

The Eastern Regional Commander of Police Service, Deputy Commissioner of Police Felix Asare-Darko, expressed regret that while the police work under difficult conditions, some people regard them as enemies. He stressed the need for the police and the public to work in harmony to ensure peace and unity in the country.

Chris Brealey, Second Secretary in charge of Environment and Human Rights at the British High Commission, who chaired the function, said that much of UK focus in Ghana has been capacity building within the Police Service.

"Our focus has been to assist the Ghana Police Service to develop in such a way that it becomes a model for other part of Africa, in particular West Africa," he said.

Mina Mensah of CHRI said the Police Accountability project undertaken by the CHRI seeks to examine the police system and the mechanisms though which the police are made accountable, identity the gaps in the accountability systems and suggest remedial measures and draw on international best price among others.

She said at the end of the targeted two year period, the CHRI expects to achieve a detailed report on the Ghana Police Service and its accountability systems, and build an active and informed and civil society network, advocating for police reform and improve media coverage on police issues.

Answering questions, Nana Oye Lithur, Regional Coordinator of the Africa Office of CHRI, urged people to discard the notion that women are not supposed to sign bail bonds in Police Station and in court. She said, women have right to bail people, but warned that a bailee can be arrested when the suspect absconds. She also said that a policeman has the right to seize a driver's license.

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