14.10.2004 General News

There is likelihood to prosecute perpetrators - NRC Lawyer

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Accra, Oct. 14, GNA - Mrs Abena Manful, Lawyer at the Legal Department of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), on Thursday said President John Agyekum Kufuor had not categorically stated that named perpetrators of human rights abuse in the NRC Report would not be prosecuted.

Mrs Manful, who said she was present at the presentation of the Report to the President said: "I did not hear him say we shall not", adding that the President rather said the perpetrators may not be prosecuted.

The choice to prosecute, she said, depended on the Government. Mrs Manful was contributing to a discussion on: "Institutionalising a Culture of Human Rights: The Role of Truth Commissions and Prosecutions" organised by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) in Accra.

The discussion, in which Journalists, social commentators, representatives of political parties and civil society participated, chiefly discussed the work of the NRC in retrospect, and the making of the Report available to the Ghanaian public.

Mr Ian Martin, Vice President of the New York based International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), was the main speaker at the discussion chaired by Prof. Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, Executive Director of CDD-Ghana.

Mrs Manful was reacting to a statement from a participant, Mr Kwaku Baprui (K B) Asante to the effect that perpetrators should be held accountable for their actions without any excuse of having acted on orders from their superiors.

Mr Asante had also said "we should see to it that the Report sees the light of the day at the appropriate time. Let's resolve that nothing is swept under the carpet so that the horrible things will not happen again".

He said that many governments knew the contents of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Reports, or had some knowledge of them before their presentation.

Mrs Manful said the Commission had no option but to present its report within the statutory three-month period to prevent any suspicion of political manipulation of its Report if it were presented later. "The Commission had been under extreme pressure; some people virtually had to sleep at the Commission in the last week before the presentation of the Report", Mrs Manful, who was also a Counsel at the Commission's hearings, said.

She said Ghana' s Reconciliation Commission seemed to be the only Commission, which had presented its Report on time without any leakage and added that nobody in Government knew what was in the Report before its presentation to the President, adding that the NRC worked without any manipulation of cowing to any pressure from the media or other sources.

Participants noted that it was necessary for the NRC Act, Act 611, to have set out the a time frame within which the Report was to be released to the public.

Also, substantial delay would wane public interest and expectations in the Report. It should also not detract on the entrenchment of rights in the political culture of the country. Mr Martin said it was only fair for the Government to take some time to study the Report, although the President had said perpetrators should be left to their conscience, people should not begin to speculate.

Professor Gyimah-Boadi said the discussions would help the Centre in coming out with benchmarks for follow-ups to the Report.

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