U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Ghana
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Ghana, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa443c.html [accessed 4 March 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
GHANAGhana continues its transition from a single-party, authoritarian system to a constitutional democracy. Flight Lieutenant (ret.) Jerry John Rawlings has ruled the country for 16 years. He became the first President of the Fourth Republic following controversial elections in 1992. This ended 11 years of authoritarian rule under Rawlings and his Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), which had seized power from an elected government in 1981. The opposition fully contested the December 1996 presidential and parliamentary elections, which were described as peaceful, free, and transparent by domestic and international observers. President Rawlings was reelected with 57 percent of the popular vote. Rawling's National Democratic Congress (NDC) party won 133 of the Parliament's 200 seats, just short of the two-thirds majority required to amend the Constitution. The Constitution calls for a system of checks and balances, with an executive branch headed by the President, a unicameral parliament, an independent judiciary, and several autonomous commissions, such as the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ). In reality this system of checks and balances is circumscribed by a parliament monopolized by the President's party, a hesitant judicial service, and a system-wide lack of resources that hobbles the effectiveness of all three branches. The presence of a significant number of opposition parliamentarians since January has led to increased scrutiny of the Government's activities. The judiciary is subject to executive influence and lacks adequate resources. Several security organizations report to various government departments. The police, under the jurisdiction of an eight-member Police Council, are responsible for maintaining law and order. A separate department, the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), handles cases considered critical to state security and answers directly to the executive branch. Although the security apparatus is controlled by and responsive to the Government, monitoring, supervision, and education of the police in particular remain poor. Credible allegations continue of police involvement in human rights abuses, especially in areas remote from the capital. The economy remains highly dependent on agriculture, with about 45 percent of gross domestic product and 70 percent of employment derived from this sector. Gold, cocoa, and timber are the traditional sources of export earnings, with gold growing in importance. The economy grew at an estimated rate of 5.5 percent in 1997, up from the 5.2 percent recorded in 1996. Increased gold production and a good cocoa harvest accounted for the slightly higher growth rate. There was improved growth in service industries and manufacturing, but mining slowed. The privatization of state-owned enterprises continues, but the pace of divestiture remains slow. Inflation fell from 45 percent at the end of 1996 to an average of 30 percent during the year. The gross domestic product per capita is approximately $340. The Government's human rights record improved somewhat, but problems remain in several areas. Police used excessive force, which resulted in a number of extrajudicial killings, as well as injuries during attempts at crowd control. There were continued credible reports that members of the police beat prisoners and other citizens; arbitrarily arrested and detained persons; and infringed on citizens' rights to privacy. Municipal security forces, which fall outside the regular police service, injured a number of persons by using excessive force to control street vendors and public demonstrations. Prison conditions remained harsh, and prolonged pretrial detention remained a problem. In a prison riot in April in Kumasi, prison officers injured five prisoners. Inadequate resources and a system vulnerable to political influence compromised the integrity of the overburdened judicial system. The Government closed its case on the deaths of four demonstrators during a 1995 antigovernment protest without any investigation and did not press charges in most of the fatalities caused by police and customs officers. It did not press charges in the shooting deaths of two demonstrators in a protest in Kumasi against the semiautonomous energy company. The Government continued to pressure the media. It resorted to a rarely used criminal libel law to prosecute three independent journalists, and many observers feared that these cases signaled a renewal of press harassment by the Government. The trials were postponed repeatedly, and one of the cases subsequently was dropped. The independent press continued its vigorous and outspoken criticism of various government policies. Seven independent radio stations operated in Accra and new stations opened throughout the country. In April the Government issued a white paper rejecting some of the adverse findings against three government officials in the 1996 report issued by the CHRAJ. The CHRAJ issued a rebuttal to the white paper. Traditional practices still result in considerable discrimination against and abuse of women and children, with violence against women a particular problem.