Ghanaians in The Netherlands have hailed a ruling by the Dutch Supreme Court (Raad van State) terminating exhaustive verification of documents tendered for legalization at the Dutch Embassy in Accra.
The court presided by a former Justice minister mr. E. M. H. Hirsch Ballin ruled on two separate cases that the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs is only mandated to check the authenticity of the signature or stamp on the document and not the contents.
Court transcripts available to Sankofa Television cited that 'legalization is only to confirm the genuineness of a document and not to verify the accuracy of the contents.'
Further calls to the Dutch Embassy in Accra & Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague confirmed the change and stated that the embassy is now carrying out legalization of documents without verification of its contents.
It would be recalled that effective April 1, 1996, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs directed all documents originating from 5 problem countries ' Ghana, Nigeria, India, Pakistan & Dominican Republic' tendered for legalization be verified for the accuracy of its contents. The directive further asked Dutch institutions to accept only verified documents legalized by the Dutch Embassy.
The cumbersome task of verification involved locally recruited agents who visited reference areas such as homes, hospitals, schools and other areas to conduct investigations. Their activities were marred by allegations of corruption and controversies.
Many Ghanaians were refused or lost their resident permits as tendering of a legalized document formed part of the application process.
Even though legal registration of births in Ghana began in 1912, many Ghanaians had to rely on circumstances or approximations to determine their birth dates.
In an earlier interview with the Director – Births & Deaths Registry (Mr. Samuel P. Ankrah) he attributed part of the problem to logistics, human resource and non-compliance of applicants to procedures in acquiring documents.
Mr. Ansowuah, a Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Education admitted that data recording in first & second cycle school were not credible enough for the Dutch investigators to base their findings. He went further to cite that a relative instead of a parent may process the admission of a child to school and the relevance of providing accurate date of birth or name is minimal.
Independent research carried by Sankofa Television suggested that Ghana lacked a law on privacy & protection of information.
In some cases, investigators could gain unlimited & direct access to school or medical records.
The ruling on September 8, 2004 in The Hague takes immediate effect and is applicable to all 5 problem countries.