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08.11.2007 General News

CHRI wants unprofessional cops in Anlo crisis disciplined


Nana Oye Lithur, Regional Coordinator of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), on Thursday called on the Police Council and the Professional Standards Units to discipline any police officer found to have behaved unprofessionally in the handling of the Anlo State conflict.

She said Policemen found to be responsible for perpetrating acts of criminal nature such as battery and causing grievous bodily harm during the incident should be prosecuted in accordance with the Criminal Code Act.

She urged the Police and security agencies in Anlo to stop the harassment and intimidation of community members and the mass arrests based on profiling of suspects.

Nana Lithur's call was made at a press conference organized by the CHRI and the Legal Resource Centre (LRC) after the two organizations conducted a day's fact finding research on human rights violations during the conflict on November 1, 2007.

A simmering chieftaincy dispute turned violent last week Thursday during the installation of the Regent of Anlo, Togbi Sri III as Awoamefia.

Six people, according to the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Mr Joe Ghartey died in the violence when Police clashed with angry youth, who were against the installation.

The Government obtained a court order to stop the installation but the Secretary of the Awoamefia Palace said the processes were completed before the court order was obtained.

Nana Lithur further called for a new Regional Police Commander to take over from the present Regional Commander, Mr Bernard Dery as a peace building measure to reduce the tension. She said all Senior Police Officers, who were directly in charge of the operations during the mass arrest should be replaced.

"Government should investigate why the DISEC, the Keta District Security machinery, or any other government intelligence organ concerned with monitoring such security situations in accordance with the Security and Intelligence Act failed to provide an early warning that could have averted the clash that occurred on November 1."

The Human Rights Activist expressed support for the call for Parliament and Government to investigate circumstances leading to the breakdown of law and order in Anloga.

Nana Lithur stressed that the methods of arrest and detention of suspects, general harassment, inhuman treatment and allegations of torture levelled against the Police by the community should be investigated.

She called for strong measures to be initiated to strengthen the enforcement of the Police Code of Conduct; Police Service Act and Disciplinary Proceedings Regulations.

Ms Florence Nakazibwe, Project Officer at CHRI, sharing her observations, said the heavy presence of Police created so much fear among Anlo citizens and affected almost all economic activities and education.

"The general observation was that people were scared of their lives and safety, they were unwilling to speak to us about events of the previous days. According to them, some people in the town, who belonged to Togbe Sri's group, are going round identifying other people, who are not part of their group to the Police," she said.

Ms Nakazibwe said they were told that the Police chased people, who were in front of their houses at 1745 hours, with guns when the curfew was imposed.

Ms Mina Mensah, Project Officer at CHRI, said they were told that: "Some drivers were stopped; passengers were made to walk; mates were asked to slap their drivers; some were asked to hop up and down holding their ears; some people riding bicycles were asked to get down and carry their bicycles on their heads."

Ms Mensah said a staff of Zoom Lion, a sanitation company, who was cleaning the market on Friday November 2, told them that while he was going about his duties, the Police pounced on him, beat him up and arrested him without asking him any questions.

She said three schools, the EP Church Basic School; Local Authority Government School and the Roman Catholic Junior High Schools were closed down and two head teachers reported that the Police manhandled them.

Mr Edward Amuzu, Executive Director LRC, said fundamental human rights including the right to life; the right to human dignity; the right to security of a person; the right to privacy; the right to personal liberty and the right to education were violated.

He said some people were arrested in their bedrooms while praying and stressed the need to address such incidents.