The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and stakeholders have commemorated and raised awareness about the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
The United Nations General Assembly in December 1997 designated June 26th as the International Day in Support of Victims of
CHRAJ in a statement signed by Mr Joseph Whittal, the Commissioner, and copied to the GNA, said as “we commemorate this day, the Commission calls on government to accelerate efforts towards the prevention of torture and the realization all international and national treaties towards prevention of torture.
The Commission further encouraged the government to implement the recommendations of the Third Cycle Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which requires Ghana to enact criminal legislation that defines and criminalizes torture in line with international standards.
Ghana was also required to provide for penalties that are commensurate with the gravity of the act; implement legal reforms to eliminate violations committed by the security forces and police; prevent, investigate and prosecute inhumane treatment in prayer camps or witch camps and psychiatric hospitals.
The statement reminded Ghana of its obligation to strengthen efforts to improve prison conditions and establish a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) with the necessary legal and administrative provisions for its effective functioning in full independence and sensitize prison and police officers on a human rights-based approach towards treatment of detainees.
More specifically, the Commission urged the government to designate CHRAJ as the NPM of Ghana and as a consequence amend CHRAJ’s Act to formalize its mandate as the NPM which it performs de facto as well as accelerate the passage into law of the Non-custodial Sentencing Bill for alternative sentencing.
According to CHRAJ concerning petty offences and reduction of prison populations; and to fully operationalize the Mental Health Authority’s visiting committees in charge of conducting monitoring of psychiatric hospitals and prayer camps as well as the Mental Health Fund, for the successful implementation of the new mental health policy in Ghana
Ghana is a signatory to both the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) and the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), which was ratified in 2000 and 2016 respectively.
Ghana’s commitment towards eradicating torture is exhibited in its membership in the core group of the Convention against Torture Initiative; a global initiative for the universal ratification and implementation of the UNCAT.
Notwithstanding these laudable systems and initiatives put in place by the government to erase the scourge of torture and ill-treatment in the country, there are still gaps in the criminal justice and the mental healthcare systems that amount to torture and ill-treatment.
Ghana’s prisons are still overcrowded with a current overcrowding rate of 52.87 per cent arising from a prison population of 15,203 as against the official total prison capacity of 9,945.
Also, there are issues of poor nutrition, with the daily food budget per prisoner inadequately pegged at GHc1.80; poor sanitation and healthcare, as well as lack of medicines, to cater for the health needs of detainees.