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General News Thu, 4 Jul 2019

ModernGhana Brouhaha: Human Rights Organisations to petition CHRAJ for investigations

Human Rights Organisations have hinted of petitioning the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to investigate and take necessary action in an alleged manhandling and torture of a journalist who is also the editor of an online news portal, ModernGhana.com.

The two journalists are reportedly being investigated for their alleged roles in some cybercrimes and were picked up by the National Security officers last Thursday.

Mr. Britwum was released the following day while Mr. Ajarfo was released that Saturday.

Mr. Ajarfor has said their arrest was tied to the publication of an article that criticized the National Security Minister, Albert Kan Dapaah.

Mr. Ajarfor also made public claims that he was tortured and his digital privacy violated while in National Security custody.

The National Security Council Secretariat has denied the torture claims saying Mr. Ajarfor “was never manhandled, neither was he subjected to any form of forced physical contact.”

However, one of the two ModernGhana journalists who alleged that they had been tortured by national security officers, Emmanuel Britwum, has made a sudden U-turn.

He now claims he was never manhandled and tortured by operatives of National Security.

Mr. Britwum, through his lawyer, Deborah Asabere-Ameyaw.

He said he disassociates himself from the claims of torture against him and could not confirm that his colleague, Ajafor Abugri was brutalized either.

In a strongly-worded statement, he said, he has not elected anyone to speak on his behalf on the ensuing matter.

But in a joint statement issued by these Civil Societies, copied to the media, indicated that they find the alleged torture as serious concerns and must be taken seriously.

"As human rights Organisations, we find these allegations worrying. We have also taken notice of allegations of torture in other cases including the alleged kidnappers of the Canadian women and the trotro driver and his mate who were recorded in a fight with a police officer. We find these trends extremely worrying", the statement opined.

The statement said no person whether arrested and detained should be subjected to torture adding that the right to be free from torture is inviolable under both national and International human rights laws and therefore cannot be compromised under any circumstance.

"As a country with strong human rights foundation, it is expected that our practices will conform to human rights dictates. A person who is alleged to have committed a crime is still entitled to enjoy his human rights and same must be respected. This fundamentally includes the right to remain silent for his accuser to adduce the necessary evidence to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Additionally, the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, Article 15(2) clearly states that no person, whether arrested, restricted or detained shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The right to be free from torture is inviolable under both national and international human rights laws and therefore cannot be compromised under any circumstance", the statement emphasized.

The statement continued that "A key fall-out of this incident is the potential for non-prosecution of the perpetrators from this unfortunate incident. This is because Ghana does not have a definition of torture as well as the designation of torture as an offence. Should there be prosecution, at best recourse will be to less grave offences such as assault, causing harm. While not degrading the importance of these offences, in comparison to torture, a strong case has been made in international law for the punishment of torture in most countries. The UN Convention Against Torture and the Committee Against Torture require Ghana to define and punish torture in its laws".

The statement noted that though the National Security Council has denied of torturing the ModernGhana's Editor but needs to be investigated thoroughly to ascertain the truth in the matter.

"Although the allegations have been denied in an unsigned statement purportedly coming from the National Security Council Secretariat, the allegations must not be watered down. As a civilised State, allegations of torture must be taken seriously and investigations conducted to ascertain their veracity or otherwise to inform further action", the statement opined.

The statement concluded that "In light of the recent developments, it behoves on Ghana to right the wrong by domesticating the Convention and defining torture. In the meantime, we will petition the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice to investigate and take the necessary action in this matter".

Below is the full statement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

A civilised State must not condone torture! Allegations must be investigated!

Our attention has been drawn to an alleged manhandling and torture of a journalist who is also the editor of an online news portal, Modernghana.com. According to reports, three journalists of the online news portal were arrested last Thursday 27th June 2019 by officials of the National Security in connection with alleged cybercrimes. The arrested journalists were taken from their work premises with their heads allegedly strapped in black polythene bags as a result of which they could not identify their location until they finally arrived at their destination where they were held until Saturday, 29th June 2019. The editor reports that during their period of holding, he was slapped on several occasions, beaten and administered with taser shocks during an interrogation process. He also alleged that he was not even questioned on the so called cybercrime and hacking offences for which National Security claims they arrested the suspects.

As human rights Organisations, we find these allegations worrying. We have also taken notice of allegations of torture in other cases including the alleged kidnappers of the Canadian women and the trotro driver and his mate who were recorded in a fight with a police officer. We find these trends extremely worrying.



As a country with strong human rights foundation, it is expected that our practices will conform to human rights dictates. A person who is alleged to have committed a crime is still entitled to enjoy his human rights and same must be respected. This fundamentally includes the right to remain silent for his accuser to adduce the necessary evidence to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Additionally, the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, Article 15(2) clearly states that no person, whether arrested, restricted or detained shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The right to be free from torture is inviolable under both national and international human rights laws and therefore cannot be compromised under any circumstance.

Although the allegations have been denied in an unsigned statement purportedly coming from the National Security Council Secretariat, the allegations must not be watered down. As a civilised State, allegations of torture must be taken seriously and investigations conducted to ascertain their veracity or otherwise to inform further action.

A key fall-out of this incident is the potential for non-prosecution of the perpetrators from this unfortunate incident. This is because Ghana does not have a definition of torture as well as the designation of torture as an offence. Should there be prosecution, at best recourse will be to less grave offences such as assault, causing harm. While not degrading the importance of these offences, in comparison to torture, a strong case has been made in international law for the punishment of torture in most countries. The UN Convention Against Torture and the Committee Against Torture require Ghana to define and punish torture in its laws. The Concluding Observations of the Committee on Ghana’s 2nd Periodic Report in 2016 stated thus:

9.While noting that article 15, paragraph (2)(a) of the 1992 Constitution prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the Committee regrets that the offence of torture as defined in article 1 of the Convention has not yet been included in the State party’s Criminal Code… The State party should take the necessary measures to ensure that torture is established as an offence in its domestic law, and should adopt a definition of torture that includes all the elements contained in article 1 of the Convention. The State party should also ensure that such offences are made punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature, in accordance with article 4, paragraph 2, of the Convention. (Emphasis ours).

In light of the recent developments, it behoves on Ghana to right the wrong by domesticating the Convention and defining torture. In the meantime, we will petition the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice to investigate and take the necessary action in this matter.

Thank you.

Signed by

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC)

Amnesty International

Bureau for Public Safety

Centre for Advocacy and Law Enforcement Research (CALER)

Penplusbytes

Legal Resources Centre

Source: Daniel Kaku
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