Humphrey Matey Kofie On Torture A reality or a Misconception

Torture! a reality or misconception? *Humphrey Matey Kofie


Generally, torture is absolutely prohibited or outlawed under both domestic and international laws.

Article 1 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment provide a global definition of “torture” as an act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Article 14 of the Convention, ratified to date by 159 countries, says that States must ensure that victims obtain redress. This includes the means for as full rehabilitation as possible for all victims, whether adults or children.
Currently in Ghana, Article 15 (1) and 15 (2) (a) and (b) of the 1992 constitution provides that the dignity of all persons shall be inviolable and also no person shall, whether or not he is arrested, restricted or detained, be subjected to-

(a) Torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

(b) Any other conditions that detracts or is likely to detract from his dignity and worth as a human being.

These international and domestic laws notwithstanding, the phenomenon continues to be perpetuated by many prayer camps, traditional healers, faith based organizations and psychiatric institutions.

It is against this background that the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture Secretariat in Geneva, has set aside June 26 of every year as International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

It is in the light of this phenomenon that the United Nation Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture has supported the Mental Health Society of Ghana to rehabilitate and provide psychological and medical care to thousands of such victims leading to social reintegration within several communities in Ghana.

Methods they have adopted include the use of fire and various methods of burning leaving highly characteristic skin changes. Whipping is also very common in prayer camps which eventually may also produce a highly characteristic pattern of scars.
Beatings, another worse form of torture on the head continues to result in loss of consciousness and particularly causing organic brain dysfunction. It is against this backdrop that the 26th of June is set aside to unite in support of the hundreds of thousands of people around in Ghana and around the world who have been victims of torture and those who are still tortured today.

The day is also used to raise awareness and sensitize the public on the plight of victims of torture globally. In Ghana, such suffering resulting from the work of these faith based organizations, prayer camps and traditional healer homes is continuously perpetuated.

We, the Stakeholder s of mhLAP and Mental Health Society of Ghana are therefore calling on the Mental Health Authority and government to speed up the implementation of the mental health law to reduce the barbaric and inhuman treatment meted to people with mental disorders and epilepsy who are at the mercy of faith based organizations, prayer camps and traditional healers’ camps.

By: Humphrey Matey Kofie

* Humphrey Matey Kofie, is the Executive Secretary Mental Health Society of Ghana(MEHSOG) and the Country Facilitator of mhLAP.

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