23.04.2004 General News

Mother of All Brutalities

23.04.2004 LISTEN

Commissioner Professor Florence Dolphyne of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) described it as the most dehumanising treatment ever to have been meted out after one Asare Panti narrated how soldiers forced him to eat human excreta mixed with rice in the 70s.

The bizarre story of Panti brought sudden silence in the chamber of the Old Parliament House, where the sitting was taking place and the lady commissioners in particular buried their faces in their hands to control their emotions.

Panti Asare who could not remember the exact date his ordeal occurred but kept repeating that it happened during Lieutenant I.K Acheampong's military regime, said sometime in the 70s six armed soldiers stormed his house at Gyankrom at Nsawam at midnight looking for his brother, Emmanuel Amoah.

After explaining that his brother does not live in the house, the soldiers pounced on him and beat him severely.

The soldiers vent their spleen on his three month old pregnant wife who came to intervene. "She was given severe slaps when she came asking what was happening," he recalled.

Panti Asare who wept uncontrollably through out his narration and has to be consoled by a counsellor of the commission Rev. Ghansah, said he laid on the floor of the vehicle and the soldiers nailed him on the floor with their boots throughout the journey to the Osu Castle, the seat of government in Accra.

He said he was then beaten from the night till dawn.

Panti whose left eye is damaged said it was caused by a soldier who pushed his fingers into it and popped the eye out at the Castle. He said he was saved by one Corporal Manfo who pleaded with the soldiers on his behalf.

Some few days later, he recounted that the soldiers took him to the Osu Public Latrine and was forced to carry sceptic pan filled with human excreta to the beach.

"After empting the sceptic pan those guarding me forced me to scoop the pan with my hands. From there I was to go and carry that of the soldiers at the Castle. The excreta poured on my dress and my body," he lamented.

He was forced by the men in green to eat food with his soiled hands. "The soldiers do not allow me to wash my hands after dumping the excreta. They would force me to eat rice and beans with my hands soiled with the excreta. After eating, they then asked me to lick my fingers, after wards they would ask whether it tasted good," he cried out.

The whole chamber suddenly went dead and the commissioners and the audience quaked as Panti recalled the unimaginable.

Panti Asare said he was later taken to the cook house where the soldiers bore a hole on the ground and asked him to insert his penis into it and demonstrate how he had been having sex with his wife. "In the process of demonstrating a soldier stepped on my waist and amidst pains, asked if that was the way I had sex with my wife.

My manhood began bleeding and as I was about to turn a soldier stepped on my knee cup and it shifted. Another also used the butt of a gun to hit my head," he recalled.

He said after an hour and a half torture session he was told the Head of State, Gen. Acheampong wanted to meet him. "Is this a human being?"

Gen. Acheampong exclaimed, he said, when the former saw him crawling into his office.

Gen. Acheampong ordered that he should be washed and he was introduced to one lawyer, Tagoe who secured his release. He said because he could not breath Tagoe bought a t-shirt and used it as a bandage to tie his ribs.

Afterwards, he was taken to 37 Military Hospital and later to Korle-Bu hospital for medical treatment.

Panti Asare said later he learnt the soldiers were searching for his brother because he defrauded a relative of Acheampong's secretary. He said his brother forgot about all that he did for him and went ahead to sell some plots of land their father bequeathed them and took all the money.

He said he wants compensation to live a meaningful life since he has been advised by doctors not to do any hard work.

The mood of the commissioners was encapsulated in the comments of Dr. Sylvia Boye, "I have even lost my voice. It seems like this story is the mother of all brutalities and torture. I least expected that this could happen at Acheampong's time."

Hearing continues today.

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