THE US Ambassador to Ghana, Pamela Bridgewater, on Friday joined calls on Parliament to expedite action on the passage of the Whistleblower Bill to protect people who expose perpetrators of wrongdoing. She also urged Parliament and Government to work assiduously to put the Bill on domestic violence and discrimination against the disabled into law to reduce the incidence of abuses in the system.
Ms Bridgewater, who was speaking at the ceremony to mark Human Rights Day in Accra, was quick to add that Ghana enjoyed one of the strongest human right records in Sub-Saharan Africa and therefore needed to work harder to consolidate it.
She congratulated Ghana for passing an Anti-Human Trafficking Law to punish people who exploited women and children through forced labour and degrading actions adding, “the effort to eliminate school fees and thereby increase access to education is in the right direction.” “Other promising developments in Ghana are the efforts to strengthen the judiciary's independence and the emergence of a vibrant responsible media,” she added.
Ms Bridgewater noted that despite its many notable accomplishments, the country still has to concern itself with the issue of human rights. She said the country continued to suffer from pervasive corruption, life threatening prison conditions, police abuses, child labour and traditional practices that discriminated against women.
She said the US Government had over the years partnered Government to provide training to improve the work of the police in the areas of community policing, narcotic interdictions and internal monitoring.
Ms Bridgewater observed that to sustain progress in human rights protection Ghana required citizens to roll up their sleeves and work for freedom and justice in their own communities.
She said the US government under her Democracy and Human Rights Fund had given out $55,000 to six non-governmental organisations whose activities bordered on human rights and democracy advocacy, including the International Federation of Women Lawyers, who received $2,280 while the Ghana Committee on Human and People's Rights got $8,233.
Adjoa Yeboah-Afari, President of the Ghana Journalists Association said the association was working tirelessly to improve the capacity of the media to champion the cause of human rights. She noted that the GJA was taking the steps given the accusations levelled against the media in the National Reconciliation Commission's report that they also played a part in the legitimisation of illegal and brutal regimes in the country and also undermined public commitment to constitutional governance. She said the media had to recognise and acknowledge its role in promoting a culture of human rights and dignity in the country.
Anna Bossman, Acting Commissioner of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice, said human rights awareness was gradually on the ascendancy in the country as more and more people continued to lodge complaints of abuses.
She noted that Ghana's performance on the Corruption Index was not encouraging and blamed it on the weakness of the anti-corruption institutions to deal with the phenomenon.
The CHRAJ boss observed that while freedom of speech was thriving in the country the media was embarking on massive irresponsible reportage. Ms Bossman said the Commission had catalogued bills that sought to address human right abuses and they would be present them to Government for appropriate action to be taken.