The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) yesterday reiterated its call to government to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) to boost Ghana's strong record of upholding human rights in Africa.
'In order to remain a leader in the international community and continue
to lead other African countries by example, Ghana needs to take more proactive measures towards ratifying the OPCAT and protect the rights of freedom from torture for our citizens', Ms Anna Bossman, Acting Commissioner, CHRAJ said.
The OPCAT is a treaty brought into force on June 22, 2006, in an effort
by the UN to reaffirm that freedom from torture is a right that must be protected in all circumstances. It is the first international instrument that seeks to prevent torture and other forms of ill treatment through the establishment of a system of regular visits to places of detention carried out by independent international and national bodies in the form of sub-committee on the prevention of torture.
Addressing a workshop, the third in series, that sought to heighten the hopes of action by the government of Ghana towards the ratification of the OPCAT, Ms Bossman said in spite of various interventions by the Commission to impress on Government to ratify the OPCAT, which she signed to on November 2006, the state remained hesitant to do so. Ghana remained among a longer list of signatories that also include Burkina Faso, Gabon, Guinea, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Togo who were yet to ratify it.
Ms Bossman explained that the workshop would enable CHRAJ to create awareness and reinforce advocacy efforts towards the ratification of the OPCAT as well as encourage government to take immediate steps to ratify the convention.
On Ghana's experience of visiting mechanism in preventing torture, Ms Bossman said the Commission had started periodic visits to prisons to check on sanitation, accommodation, feeding and recreation facilities to ensure there was no torture, cruelty and degrading treatment meted out to inmates.
This, she said had contributed to the improvement in the living conditions of prisoners in the country.
Mr Nicholas Lang, the Swiss Ambassador explained that the idea of abolition of torture and cruelty was proposed by Switzerland in the late 1980s to end all forms of inhuman treatment to mankind to protect their dignity.
He said unfortunately, torture was still being practiced in about 150 countries either out of revenge or to degrade the dignity of mankind.
Professor Kenneth Attafuah, a Human Rights Activist explained that torture meant severe pain or suffering that is intentionally inflicted on a person and that freedom from torture and inhuman treatment was fundamental human rights that must be ensured and respected by all states.
'The optional protocol is a novel and compelling convention that deserve urgent ratification. It is an urgent law that the state must not hesitate to ratify at all'.