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Dabbousi’s unlawful detention epitomises Mahama’s disgust for democracy

Fadi Dabboussie New Fadi Dabboussi

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 Source: Badu, K

By K. Badu

As a human rights ideologue with an inborn predilection for the promotion and protection of the inherent dignity and the inalienable rights of all members of the human family, I, for one, buried my head in shame when President Mahama goofed terribly over his recent UN speech on democracy (See: ‘Full Text of President Mahama’s UN Speech-cityfmonline.com/ghanaweb.com, 21/09/2016).

Hear President Mahama: “Democracy is not a one size fits all system. Different countries are at different stages of the democratic journey. Democracy evolves and cannot be forced. It doesn't help for bigger powers to go proselytizing democracy.

It can have its negative consequences as we are experiencing in parts of North Africa and the Middle East. But still a properly functioning peer system can avoid some of the melt downs we are experiencing in some African countries due to the desire to remain in office interminably”.

“Human progress is not a seamless movement forward. It encompasses periods of reversal, mistakes, fumbling and falling. All parts of the world have been through this, learnt from their mistakes, picked themselves up after a fall and continued moving. Africa must be allowed the same latitude.”

By inference, President Mahama is antipathetic to civil liberties and personal integrity rights which include inter alia, freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly and association, the freedom of religious expression, freedom from unlawful and political imprisonment, freedom from torture, freedom from unlawful physical or other harm, freedom from cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the right to a fair trial (Neumayer 2005).

As a matter of fact, several extant quantitative studies on human rights repressions cite democracy as a crucial factor that may negatively or positively impact on the repression of human rights by states (Hathaway 2002; Hafner-Burton and Tsutsui 2005).

What’s more, some contending schools of thought insist that democratic states are less likely than autocratic states to repress human rights (Henderson 1999; Poe, Tate and Keith 1999; Hafner-Burton and Tsutsui 2005).

It is also worth mentioning that in so far as Ghana has ratified quite a number of the United Nations human rights instruments which are geared towards the promotion and protection of inalienable human rights and democracy, it becomes extremely troubling when our president backslides and makes such an impolitic appeal.

Apparently, there is complementarity, indivisibility, universality, interrelatedness, interdependence and mutually reinforcing relationship between democracy and human rights. Recent examples include the enactment of United Nations resolutions 19/36 and 28/14 on “Human rights, democracy and the rule of law” (UN 2016).

In other words, democracy and human rights are inseparable. Thus, one cannot choose, for example, democracy over human rights, for it would be inappropriate to do so.

“The values of freedom, respect for human rights and the principle of holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage are essential elements of democracy. In turn, democracy provides the natural environment for the protection and effective realization of human rights”.

“These values are embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and further developed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which enshrines a host of political rights and civil liberties underpinning meaningful democracies”.

Ironically, “democracy deficits, weak institutions and poor governance are among the main challenges to the effective realization of human rights”.

In fact, democratic governance stresses the role of citizens without any hindrance or exclusion — in moulding their human growth and the human advancement of societies. However, individuals can only make such contributions when their collective potential is harnessed through the enjoyment of human rights.

In 2011, for instance, the UNDP assisted more than 130 countries and devoted US$1.5 billion in resources to democratic governance, making UNDP the world's largest provider of democratic governance assistance. UNDP supports one in three parliaments in the developing world and an election every two weeks (UN 2016).

In 2014, UNDP programme strengthened electoral processes around the world and helped register 18 million new voters. UNDP also works to foster partnerships and share ways to promote participation, accountability and effectiveness at all levels, aiming to build effective and capable states that are accountable and transparent, inclusive and responsive — from elections to participation of women and the poor (UN 2016).

In March 2012, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution titled “Human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” which reaffirmed that democracy, development and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms were interdependent and mutually reinforcing. The Council however reminded States to make continuous efforts to strengthen the rule of law and promote democracy through a wide range of measures.

In furtherance to this resolution, OHCHR, in consultation with States, national human rights institutions, civil society, relevant intergovernmental bodies and international organizations, published a study on challenges, lessons learned and best practices in securing democracy and the rule of law from a human rights perspective. Based on the study, in June 2013 OHCHR organised a panel discussion on these issues, with the participation of international experts.

Besides, in March 2015, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 28/14, which established a forum on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, to provide a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to these areas.

OHCHR also works to underline the close relationship between human rights and democracy within the United Nations system.

It is against this backdrop that every patriot and proponent of democracy and human rights must be extremely worried over President Mahama’s unmeasured speech at the UN 71st General Assembly in New York.

As observes by the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, “there can be no human security without human rights”.

“The fundamental human rights norms must be the starting point for everything we do nationally, regionally and internationally” (Ramcharan).

Interestingly, however, the 2016 World Freedom report by Freedom House indicates that government agencies in Ghana occasionally restrict press freedom through harassment and arrests of journalists, especially those reporting on politically sensitive issues.

The report stresses that in September 2015, journalists and media organizations condemned presidential staffer Stan Dogbe, who allegedly attacked Ghana Broadcasting Corporation journalist Yahayah Kwamoah and damaged his recording device.

The 2016 report states that media groups criticized police for failing to protect journalists from TV-Africa who were attacked while covering demonstrations in the slum known as Sodom and Gomorrah in Accra.

“In January 2014, police in the Upper West Region arrested the host of the radio talk program Sungmaale FM, along with two panellists, for on-air comments about police strategies toward criminal activity. The detainees were released the same day, and the acting commissioner of police of the Upper Western Region apologized for the officers’ unlawful conduct”.

“In March 2013, two photojournalists from state-owned newspapers were brutally beaten by security officials while they were taking photos of Mahama during Ghana’s Independence Day celebrations. The Ghana Journalist Association (GJA) and the Media Foundation for West Africa condemned the attack and demanded an immediate probe. The Ghana Armed Forces conducted an investigation of the incident and in April exonerated the military personnel involved of any misconduct. However, public uproar over the exoneration led the country’s chief of defence staff in May to apologize to the photojournalists and say they would be compensated”.

“In January 2012, several agents of the Bureau of National Investigations attacked a reporter for the private Daily Guide when she attempted to photograph the deputy superintendent of police, who was being investigated for alleged offences”.

“In June 2012, four police officers assaulted a reporter for the state-owned Daily Graphic, who was covering a drug raid conducted by the police. The government indicated that it was investigating both cases, but no charges were brought against either”.

“In March 2011, teachers’ union members who were conducting a peaceful march against a new wage policy were subjected to beatings, tear gas, and arrest by police in Accra”.

“In February 2010, NPP activist Nana Darkwa Baafi was detained on charges of “publishing false news with intent to cause fear or harm to the public or to disturb the public peace. “His arrest prompted the NPP to boycott parliamentary proceedings for two days. Baafi had alleged during a radio interview that former president John Rawlings had set fire to his own government-sponsored residence in an effort to acquire new housing. During Barfi’s hearing in March, NPP and NDC supporters clashed at the Accra courthouse, leaving two injured. The case was ultimately dropped in October”.

“In July 2010, criminal charges were brought against the acting news editor of Joy FM, Ato Kwamena Dadzie, for his coverage of the scandal surrounding the STX Korea housing deal.”

In fact, the list is not exhaustive, however, time and space won’t allow me to enumerate all in this periodical.

Nevertheless, given that the NDC government is fond of civil liberties and personal integrity rights violations, President Mahama’s opposition to democratic governance should be a bother to every human rights activist.

In any case, based on President Mahama and his NDC government’s recent record on unlawful detentions, it came as no surprise when the officials of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) were reported to have detained the prolific writer and NPP sympathiser, Fadi Dabousi for inexplicable reasons (See: ‘Journalist, Fadi Dabbousi, reportedly arrested at Kotoka’-ghanaweb.com, 23/09/2016; ‘Fadi Dabbousi’s lawyer threatens to sue BNI’; classfmonline.com/ghanaweb.com, 25/09/2016).

References will be available on my blog at: www.alljoycom.wordpress.com

Columnist: Badu, K