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11.05.2012 Crime & Punishment

Government asked to promote human rights of alleged witches

By GNA
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Tamale, May 11, GNA – Naa Chief Alhassan Issahaku Amadu, Northern Regional Population Officer, has appealed to the government to ensure judicious application and enforcement of laws that guarantee freedoms and rights of alleged witches.

He said the judicious application as well as enforcement of the laws would ensure persons accused of witchcraft would not be subjected to dehumanizing treatment.

Naa Chief Amadu made the call at a day's capacity building workshop in Tamale on Thursday organized by Grassroots Sisterhood Foundation (GSF) and Network for Women's Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT), both NGO's and attended by members of Anti-Witchcraft Allegation Campaign Coalition (AWACC), which is a grouping of some civil society organizations.

The workshop was to assess the gender impact on allegations of witchcraft in northern Ghana and come out with a communiqué for authorities to address the situation.

It was under the theme: “Protecting Women against Witchcraft Allegation is a Civil Responsibility: Witchcraft Allegation is Criminal.”

Naa Chief Amadu said it was not enough to pass good laws which would remain in the statute books without enforcement whilst human rights of innocent people were being abused.

Article 26(2) of the 1992 Constitution states that “All customary practices which dehumanize or are injurious to the physical and mental well-being of a person are prohibited”.

Ghana is also a signatory to a number of international conventions and protocols which detest violence against women.

However, the allegation or accusation of witchcraft practice of elderly women in some communities in the Northern Region renders such laws, conventions and protocols almost invalid as the alleged victims are subjected to all manner of dehumanizing treatments such as beatings, trial by ordeal, banishment and confinement to secluded places referred to as witches camps.

Naa Chief Amadu said the practice arose because of the human nature of women, adding that apart from the enforcement of the laws, women must be

assertive and empowered to seek legal redress.
He called for education of especially the youth, who are at the fore-front of launching attacks on alleged witches, to stop the practice and safeguard the rights of innocent elderly women.

In a presentation titled:”Human Rights Perspective of Witchcraft Accusations,” Mr Adam Baani, Northern Regional Anti-Corruption Focal Person of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) said “If possible government should pass a law so that all cases on witchcraft accusations pursued at the courts are fee free”.

Mr Baani said this would encourage victims, who were mostly poor, to come out and seek legal redress.

Assistant Superintendent of Police Emmanuel Holotu, the Northern Regional Commander of the Domestic Victims and Violence Support Unit of the Ghana Police Service, appealed to communities especially where witchcraft accusations existed to show appreciation for cultures and stop the practice of torturing elderly women for alleged witchcraft practice.

Madam Fati Alhassan, Executive Director of GSF, called on communities to stop lynching victims of alleged witchcraft practice.

GNA

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