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General News Wed, 14 Jan 2004

NRC summons ex-ruler Rawlings

A commission charged with probing human rights abuses in Ghana has summoned former President Jerry Rawlings and his security chief to testify on the 1982 murders of four people, officials said on Wednesday.

The murders of three judges and a retired army officer shocked the West African nation and previous testimony at the National Reconciliation Commission has linked the former head of state to the killings.

The commission was set up to probe abuses in the former British colony by five military administrations from 1966, including those of Rawlings who led coups in 1979 and 1981 and had three former heads of state shot on a beach for corruption.

Ken Attafuah, the executive secretary of the South African-style panel, said the summons would be delivered to Rawlings on his return from a trip abroad. His security chief Kojo Tsikata has already been summoned.

"There are documents before us which mention Mr Rawlings and Kojo Tsikata as being possibly connected to or involved in those killings," Attafuah said.

No comment was immediately available from Rawlings' camp.

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Now seen as a model of democracy in Africa, Ghana suffered decades of instability after becoming the first black African country to win independence from European rulers in 1957.

Human rights activists say more than 200 people vanished when Rawlings ran a military government, before he restored democratic rule after winning 1993 elections.

Some of Rawlings supporters fear the panel hearings constitute a politically motivated witch-hunt.

The panel has received over 4,000 petitions from people reporting the disappearance of loved ones, unlawful detention, torture, forcible exile and the seizure of property. So far, it has heard fewer than half and has until July to finish its work.

Witnesses receive immunity from prosecution for crimes they confess to at the hearings, set up under a similar system to those after the end of South Africa's racist apartheid system.

Source: Reuters
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