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17.04.2012 General News

Prisoners To Be Registered In 4th Phase

By Donald Ato Dapatem - Daily Graphic
Prisoners To Be Registered In 4th Phase
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The Electoral Commission (EC), in collaboration with the Ghana Prisons Service, has set up a working committee to thrash out the problems of identifying qualified prisoners for the biometric voters registration.

Consequently, all prisoners eligible to exercise their franchise in the December 2012 general election will be registered during the fourth phase of the biometric registration exercise from April 24 to May 5, 2012.

The acting Director of Communications of the EC, Mr Christian Owusu-Parry, told graphic.com.gh that the committee, comprising officials of both the Prisons Service and the EC, was working feverishly to come up with the best possible ways of identifying Ghanaians among the prisoners.

Ghana's prisons have about 13,400 inmates, with females forming approximately two per cent of the population. Majority of the inmates are Ghanaians.

There are 12 major male prisons in the country — Akuse, Kumasi, Sekondi, Tamale, Nsawam, Ho, Sunyani, Navrongo, Wa, Tarkwa, Ankaful and Winneba.

The idea to allow prisoners to vote in the December 2012 elections came after years of national debates by human rights campaigners.

The Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling in May 2010, declared null and void Section 7(5) of PNDCL 285 which imposes a residency requirement on prisoners as condition for voting, thereby giving the nod to convicted and remand prisoners in the country’s jails the right to vote.

The court directed the EC to come up with a Constitutional Instrument (CI) to create the legal framework that would ensure the inclusion of prisoners in the voters register for the next general election.

The court, presided over by the Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood, unanimously upheld applications filed on behalf of remand and convicted prisoners by two legal practitioners, Mr Ahumah Ocansey and Mr Kojo Graham of the Centre of Human Rights and Civil Liberties (CHURCIL).

The two had, in separate suits which were consolidated by the court on November 12, 2009, prayed the court to declare as null and void sections of PNDCL 284 which barred remand and convicted prisoners from voting. The Attorney-General and the EC were jointly sued.

While inaugurating the Ankaful Prison in 2011, President Mills declared the government’s intention to allow prisoners to vote and asked the EC to take the necessary steps to comply with the Supreme Court ruling which gave prisoners the right to vote.

Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution guarantees all citizens of Ghana who are 18 years and above and are of sound mind the right to be registered to enable them to vote in all public elections and referenda.

The court, therefore, declared as void Section 7(5) of Law 284, since it was inconsistent with Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution. It further stated that in order not to stampede the process and avoid hasty decisions on the part of the EC, it was necessary for the EC to come up with rules and regulations to regulate the registration exercise.

Just before the commencement of the registration exercise, the EC Chairman, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, announced that based on the Supreme Court ruling, the prisoners would be registered for the 2012 elections and beyond.

But the move nearly hit a snag because of the inability of the prison inmates to readily produce a form of national identity prescribed by the EC, which include a driving licence, a passport or a national identification card.

It is also reported that most of the inmates are using nicknames on official prison records, hence the difficulty in ascertaining their true identities to ensure the smooth take-off of the exercise.

However, Mr Owusu-Parry explained that the committee would be able to come up with the modalities to ensure that prisoners were registered.

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