International and Local human rights activists on Wednesday condemned the Officials of Game and Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission stationed at the Digya National Park for violating the fundamental human rights of illegal settlers in the Park.
"The eviction of (illegal) settlers from the National Park, without a relocation or resettlement programme is a violation of Article 20 (3), that states that where possession of land effected by the State involves displacement of any inhabitants, the State shall resettle the displaced persons on suitable alternative land with due regard to their economic well-being and social and cultural values.
"Article 15 (2) of the 1992 Constitution also prohibits use of any form of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment to evict any person or group of persons," Nana Oye Lithur, African Regional Coordinator of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) Office in Accra, stated at a press conference.
The press conference was jointly organized by the CHRI, Peoples Dialogue and Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions, non-governmental organizations, which focuses on the protection and promotion of economic and social rights with specific emphasis on housing rights, stated their position on the eviction of about ten communities from the Digya National Park and the resultant boat accident on the Volta Lake.
Nana Oye Lithur said the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in its Resolution 1993/77 on Forced Evictions condemned the use of force to evict people because such action constituted a gross violation of human rights.
The Human Rights activist blamed the violation of the human rights of the Digya Settlers on the failure of the Game and Wildlife Officials to respect the right of everyone as an exhibition of ignorance on international and local laws on evictions.
In a 13-piont resolution, the three institutions, recommended that the Game and Wildlife ceases all forced evictions in the Digya National Park till appropriate relocation and compensation for loss of homes and livelihood was provided in genuine consultation with affected persons. It should also ensure that an alternative location is within a reasonable distance to affected persons' sources of livelihood. Game and Wildlife should provide emergency relief supplies including blankets, sanitation facilities and food supplies to those evicted, provide emergency health care to the evictees and to provide emergency housing for all those now forced to sleep outdoors.
Whiles commending the Government for instituting a Committee of Enquiry to investigate the April 8 2006 Volta Lake Disaster, which claimed 10 lives the three Institutions urged the Committee to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the boat disaster. It should ensure that the bodies of all who perished in the boat disaster are found and given proper burial rites and provide compensation to all families of evictees, who perished as a result of the disaster.
In the medium term, the three institutions also called on the Government to provide an alternative and adequate accommodation to those who have been made homeless by the forced eviction within a reasonable distance to affected persons' sources of livelihood Provide compensation for all who have lost housing, property and livelihoods and to bring to justice all those responsible for human rights abuses during the forced evictions.
Whiles in the long term it called for establishment of a moratorium on all forced evictions in Ghana, preparation and implementation of a National Evictions Policy, with a thorough consultation process involving all stakeholders, to serve as a guide to the implementation on evictions where it was considered justifiable in conformity with international human rights standards. It also called on the Government and non-governmental agencies to ensure that human rights of all people resident in Ghana were respected irrespective of nationality, colour, tribe and status.