A Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice S.K. Date-Bah, has observed that judges have the responsibility not only of upholding the Constitution and ensuring that human rights are a reality for all Ghanaians and non-Ghanaian residents in Ghana, but also to keep abreast with new developments in international human rights law.
He said there is therefore the need for continuous training of judges.
The Supreme Court Judge made these remarks on Friday at the opening ceremony of a two day rights-based judicial training workshop for the Ghana Judiciary. The workshop was organized by Africa Legal Aid in cooperation with the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and the Judicial Training Institute.
He however noted that, in practice, this is not always as easy as judges have heavy schedules and court calendars and therefore simply do not have the time to study and follow in detail the fast and numerous developments in the field of human rights and related areas.
Justice Date-Bah said for the Ghanaian judiciary, the recent developments in international human rights law are of the utmost importance. He said judges are bound to respect the provisions of these international human rights treaties, norms and rulings and to sure that human rights are a reality for all within the Ghanaian jurisdiction.
He noted that the Ghanaian law and practice relating to the enforcement of the obligations of treaties is dualist, in the sense that such obligations have to be incorporated into municipal law before the courts can enforce them, Article 33(5) of the 1992 Constitution offers the courts an avenue for by-passing this dualist practice.
He explained that this article provides that "The rights, duties, declarations and guarantees relating to the fundamental human rights and freedoms specifically mentioned in this chapter shall not be regarded as excluding others not specifically mentioned which are to be considered inherent in a democracy and intended to secure the freedom and dignity of man."
He pointed out that from this clause, it is clear that categories of human rights enshrined in the Constitution are never closed, noting, "Serving judges therefore, have to sharpen their skills for discovering human rights not specifically mentioned in the Ghanaian Constitution, but additionally in international human rights laws."
According to the Supreme Court Judge, discussing the international dimensions of human rights will always enrich judges' appreciation of the country's provisions on human rights contained in Chapter 5 and 6 of the 1992 Constitution. This, he said is so because Ghana's national human rights provisions are derived from the gains made by the international human rights laws. "The proposals of the Constitutional Commission for a Constitution for Ghana (published in 1968), which is the source of the Bill of Rights provisions of the 1969, 1979 and 1992 Constitutions of Ghana, links our national Bill of Rights with the UN Charter and the international human rights movement," he stressed.
Justice Date-Bah pointed out that the Ghana Judiciary would thus be betraying the trust reposed in it if it were to adopt an isolationist national approach to the interpretation and enforcement of the country's Bill of Rights provisions, adding, "We need to keep open the lines of communication with the international human rights community."
In her welcome address, the Executive Director of Africa Legal Aid, Evelyn Ankumah, said the significance of the workshop lies above all in the fact that it is aimed to serve the judiciary, which plays a key role in making human rights a reality.
She said the first point of call for victims of human rights violations seeking legal redress will be the national judiciary or perhaps a national human rights commission. She said it is therefore of utmost importance that national courts and human rights commissions are fully aware of their key role in protecting human rights and are also adequately informed about relevant regulatory, judicial and other developments in these fields.