Author: United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Publication Type: Report
Date of publication: 2018
Ghana is a constitutional democracy with a strong presidency and a unicameral 275-seat parliament. Presidential and parliamentary elections conducted in 2016 were peaceful, and domestic and international observers assessed them to be transparent, inclusive, and credible.
The police, under the Ministry of the Interior, are responsible for maintaining law and order, but the military continued to participate in law enforcement activities in a support role, such as by protecting critical infrastructure. A separate entity, the Bureau of National Investigations, handles cases considered critical to state security and answers directly to the Ministry of National Security. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.
Significant human rights issues included: arbitrary or unlawful killings by the government or its agents; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; violence against journalists including assaults, death threats and one journalist shot and killed; censorship of a free press including arrests and the closure of two radio stations for ostensible licensing irregularities; corruption in all branches of government; crimes of violence against women and girls, to which government negligence significantly contributed; infanticide of children with disabilities; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct, although rarely enforced; and forced child labor.
Ghana is a constitutional democracy with a strong presidency and a unicameral 275-seat parliament. Presidential and parliamentary elections conducted in 2016 were peaceful, and domestic and international observers assessed them to be transparent, inclusive, and credible
The government took some steps to address corruption and abuse by officials, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government. This included the passage and signing into law in May of the Right to Information Bill that seeks to improve governmental accountability and transparency. Impunity remained a problem, however.
Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were a few reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. In some cases authorities claimed the victims were suspected robbers. In January, the Ghana Police Service (GPS) shot and killed a 25-year-old suspected armed robber while he attempted to flee. While law enforcement officials stated the suspect committed the crime, the suspect’s family believed police killed him in a case of mistaken identity.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
While the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were credible reports police beat and otherwise abused detained suspects and other citizens. Victims were often reluctant to file formal complaints.
Police generally denied allegations or claimed the level of force used was justified. By September the Police Professional Standards Bureau (PPSB) had received 77 cases of police brutality and investigated 14 of those reports. In July prosecutors charged a police officer with assault for allegedly beating a customer on the premises of a bank while she was trying to withdraw her money.
Authorities initially suspended the police officer while an investigation took place, but then dismissed the case. Media reports speculated that the parties reached an out-of-court settlement involving compensation. In February 2018 the United Nations reported that it had received a complaint of sexual exploitation and abuse against peacekeepers from Ghana deployed in the UN Mission in South Sudan. The United Nations investigated allegations that members of the unit were having sexual relations with women at one of the protection camps. Forty-six Ghanaian police officers were subsequently repatriated on administrative grounds. Ghanaian authorities continued to investigate.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions were generally harsh and sometimes life threatening due to overcrowding, inadequate sanitary conditions, lack of medical care, physical abuse, and food shortages.
The Prisons Public Relations Officer (PRO) reported in September that prison overcrowding reached more than 55 percent, with a population of 15,461 inmates compared to the 9,945-inmate total capacity of prisons nationwide. Although authorities sought to hold juveniles separately from adults, there were reports detainees younger than 18 were held with adults. Authorities held pretrial detainees in the same facilities as convicts but generally in separate cells, although due to overcrowding in convict blocks, Nsawam Prison held some convicts in blocks designated for pretrial detainees.
The Ghana Prisons Service held women separately from men. No prison staff specifically focused on mental health, and officials did not routinely identify or offer treatment or other support to prisoners with mental disabilities.
In March the press reported a severe water shortage at the Koforidua Prison in the Eastern Region when assessing inmates’ access to safe water as part of activities to mark World Water Day. Shortages left inmates unable to bathe and wash their clothes regularly, and reportedly led to skin infections among the inmates.
The prison, built to accommodate 400 inmates, held 800. The one report of a prison operating below capacity was James Camp prison in Accra, a rehabilitation facility for low-risk male prisoners on the path to release to learn vocational skills such as in agriculture and handicrafts. Figures indicated that 250 out of 430 spaces were filled.
Although the government continued to reduce the population of individuals in pretrial detention, prison overcrowding remained a serious problem, with certain prisons holding approximately two to four times more inmates than designed capacity. While prisoners had access to potable water, food was inadequate. Meals routinely lacked fruit, vegetables, or meat, forcing prisoners to rely on charitable donations and their families to supplement their diet. The PRO identified feeding of inmates as a key challenge.
Lengthy pretrial detention remained a serious problem. Ghana Prisons Service statistics available in September 2018 indicated 1,944 prisoners, just under 13 percent of all prisoners, were in pretrial status.
The government kept prisoners in extended pretrial detention due to police failing to investigate or follow up on cases, slow trial proceedings marked by frequent adjournments, detainees’ inability to meet bail conditions that were often set extremely high even for minor offenses, and inadequate legal representation for criminal defendants.
The length of pretrial detention exceeded the maximum sentence for the alleged crime in numerous instances. Inadequate recordkeeping contributed to prisoners being held in egregiously excessive pretrial detention, some for up to 10 years. Judicial authorities, however, were implementing a case tracking system on a trial basis in four different regions.
If successful, the system will track a case from initial arrest to remand custody in the prisons, to prosecution in the courts to incarceration or dismissal. The system is envisioned to be used by all judicial and law enforcement stakeholders, from police, public defenders, prosecutors, judge sand prisons, to NGOs, with the
Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to the views of such groups. The government actively engaged civil society and the United Nations in preparation for the country’s third Universal Periodic Review in 2017.
Government Human Rights Bodies
The CHRAJ, which mediated and settled cases, brought by individuals against government agencies or private companies, operated with no overt interference from the government; however, since it is itself a government institution, some critics questioned its ability independently to investigate high-level corruption.
Its biggest obstacle was lack of adequate funding, which resulted in low salaries, poor working conditions, and the loss of many of its staff to other governmental organizations and NGOs. As of October, the CHRAJ had 111 offices across the country, with 696 staff members. Public confidence in the CHRAJ was high, resulting in an increased workload for its staff.
The Office of the IGP and PPSB investigate claims of excessive force by security force members. The PPSB also investigates human rights abuses and police misconduct. As of September, the CHRAJ had not received any reports of police beating detainees.
Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons Women Rape and Domestic Violence
The law criminalizes rape of women but not spousal rape. Sexual assault on a male can be charged as indecent assault. Prison sentences for those convicted of rape range from five to 25 years, while indecent assault is a misdemeanor subject to a minimum term of imprisonment of six months. Rape and domestic violence remained serious problems.
While the government generally made efforts to enforce the law, predominantly male tribal leaders and chiefs are empowered to regulate land access and usage within their tribal areas. Within these areas, women were less likely than men to receive access rights to large plots of fertile land.
The law criminalizes rape of women but not spousal rape. Sexual assault on a male can be charged as indecent assault. Prison sentences for those convicted of rape range from five to 25 years, while indecent assault is a misdemeanor subject to a minimum term of imprisonment of six months. Rape and domestic violence remained serious problems
Widows often faced expulsion from their homes by their deceased husband’s relatives, and they often lacked the awareness or means to defend property rights in court.
Children Birth Registration
Citizenship is derived by birth in the country or outside if either of the child’s parents or one grandparent is a citizen. Children unregistered at birth or without identification documents may be excluded from accessing education, health care, and social security.
Although having a birth certificate is required to enroll in school, government contacts indicated that children would not be denied access to education on the basis of documentation.
The country’s 2016 automated birth registration system aims at enhancing the ease and reliability of registration. According to the MICS, birth registration increases with levels of education and wealth and is more prevalent in urban centers than in rural areas. For additional information,
The constitution provides for tuition-free, compulsory, and universal basic education for all children from kindergarten through junior high school. In September 2017 the government began phasing in a program to provide tuitionfree enrollment in senior high school, beginning with first-year students.
Girls in the northern regions and rural areas throughout the country were less likely to continue and complete their education due to the weak quality of educational , inability to pay expenses related to schooling, prioritization of boys’ education over girls’, security problems related to distance between home and school, lack of dormitory facilities, and inadequate sanitation and hygiene facilities.
The law prohibits sex with a child younger than 16 with or without consent, incest, and sexual abuse of minors. There continued to be reports of male teachers sexually assaulting and harassing both female and male students. In July 2018, the Ghana Education Service fired four high school teachers in the Ashanti Region for sexually assaulting some students, although four other teachers in the same region were kept on the payroll but transferred to other schools.
Sexual Exploitation of Children
The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children. Authorities did not effectively enforce the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16, and participating in sexual activities with anyone under this age is punishable by imprisonment for seven to 25 years. The law criminalizes the use of a computer to publish, produce, procure, or possess child pornography, punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years, a fine of up to 5,000 penalty units (60,000 cedis or $11,500), or both.
Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities
The law bans infanticide, but several NGOs reported that communities in the Upper East Region kill “spirit children” born with physical disabilities who are suspected of being possessed by evil spirits. Local and traditional government entities cooperated with NGOs to raise public awareness about causes and treatments for disabilities and to rescue children at risk of ritual killing
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