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30.08.2005 General News

Okudzeto appeals to citizens ....

Listen to article keep the police on their toes Accra, Aug 30, GNA - Mr Sam Okudzeto, a legal practitioner, has said Ghanaians needed to put the Police on their toes to prevent them from human rights abuses.

He said it was unconstitutional for the Police to arrest, and detain for more that 48 hours without a warrant signed by a magistrate of a court of law and that the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the police officer on duty or the one who affected the arrest could be sued for such abuses.

''The law requests the police to state the offence in the language that suspects understand before detention and if the suspect does not understand English, an interpreter should be found to translate the offence.''

Mr Okudzeto, who is the Chairman of the International Advisory Commission of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, said this at a public forum on "the role of the media in building trust between the Police and the Public", held in Accra.

Mr Okudzeto said it was illegal to disallow women to give bail and a warrant had to be produced before a search could be made on a person's abode.

The forum, organised by the CHRI, and Journalists for Human Rights in collaboration with Guinness Ghana Breweries Group, was to draw attention to alleged offences by individuals in the Ghana Police Service towards civilians and how the media could improve their reporting to encourage better police practices.

It featured narrations of five witnesses from the Volta and the Greater Accra regions who suffered various forms of abuses at the hands of shrine priests and the police in 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2005. These included trial by ordeal, arrest and detention without statement of offence, detention for more than 48 hours, search without warrant, harassment and throwing of suspects into cells for wanting to know offence.

Witnesses were a fishmonger, footballer, fashion designer and they alleged that the police made unsubstantiated allegations against them, extorted monies and collected bribes from them, had no interest in the cases, were treated in undignified manner to the point of making them sleep beside pails of human excreta in cells.

Mr Kweku Kyei, a former Inspector General of Police and now Member of the Council of State, said very little had changed in the Ghana Police Service since the last 20 years and called for adequate budgetary allocations to the Police to make the service effective.

Mr Kyei said until Ghanaians were prepared to have time to follow due legal process without resorting to bribes and other short-cut means, the people put in places to maintain law and order would take them for granted.

He called on the media to give equal attention to the positive deeds of the police.

A Senior Police Officer said the Police Administration had established a Professional Standards Unit and asked the public to forward complaints on unprofessional behaviour of police personnel to that unit. The service is also in the process of re-organising the Women and Juvenile Unit of the Service and had, as a step, established the Domestic Violence Support Unit.

Ms Anna Bossman, Acting Commissioner for the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, who chaired the forum said it had rather become a culture that the Police did not like to be challenged. She asked the police to be clear on whatever action they took. Speakers were unanimous on the need for the media to give more attention to human rights issues.