Re: I am still a human rights activist - Oye Lithur

Oye Lithur Nana Panel Nana Oye Lithur, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection

Tue, 23 Aug 2016 Source: Badu, K

I perused with puzzled countenance Nana Oye Lithur’s response to the recent public outcry over her lack of interest in some human rights violations following her appointment as gender Minister.

In an exclusive interview with Agoo Tv’s Maame Broni, Nana Oye Lithur insisted that she remains a human rights activist despite her role in government (kasapafmonline.com ; ghanaweb.com, 21/08/2016).

There is no denying of the fact that Nana Oye Lithur is an erudite human rights lawyer, who has distinguished herself honourably over the years as a human rights activist. Nevertheless, the notion that she can be in government and continue being an active human rights defender is a nonstarter.

Obviously, this periodical does not intend to give remedial tutorials on international human rights law to Nana Oye Lithur, far from it. Nonetheless, we would like to remind Nana Oye Lithur that human rights were primordially put together by the international community to check the various governments abuses on their citizens (Waltz, 2001; Kabasakal, 2006).

Besides, the role of a human rights activist is to defend, promote and protect the inherent dignity and the inalienable human rights of all members of the human family (Mertus 2007).

A human rights defender thus seeks to promote, protect and defend all human rights, including civil, political, economic, social, cultural rights and the right to development.

Apparently, an authentic human rights defender cannot ignore the indivisibility, the universality, the interdependence and the inter-relatedness of human rights. In other words, a human rights activist cannot and must not choose between two human rights violations.

For instance, Articles 2.1 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stress on the universality of human rights and non-discrimination.

More importantly, human rights abuses are not reducible to violations on citizens by citizens, but include the violations by the ruling governments, who are noted for worst human rights abuses (Hathaway 2002, 2007; Hafner-Burton and Tsutsui 2005, 2007).

It is against this background that I am in puzzled countenance over Nana Oye Lithur’s insistence that she is still engaging in human rights activism despite her role as a Cabinet Minister.

Well, I have little reason to doubt Nana Oye Lithur, but my question to her is: does your current activism work cover political and civil rights violations?

Take for instance, despite the fact that the ratifications of international human rights treaties impose legal obligations on countries; meta-analysis suggests that a large number of governments often do not comply with the treaty obligations following ratification (Hathaway 2007; Hafner-Burton and Tsutsui 2007).

Thus, domestic and transnational human rights activists routinely exert pressure on governments to honour their legal obligations (Mertus 2007).

The overarching question then is: how would Nana Oye Lithur exert pressure on her own government in the event of human rights treaty violations?

“I am still a human rights activist”. “I may not be seen as a neutral activist because of my position now but until I leave this earth, I will always stick true to my vision, mission and value of helping my neighbour and stretching it to helping the community and using my God giving talent, my capabilities, my competencies, my skills and my experience to make the lives of other people better”.

Indeed, your neutrality as a human rights defender will always be questionable whilst you are playing an active role in the ruling government.

Apparently, there have been a few human rights cases that discerning Ghanaians were expecting you to intervene, but you somehow disappointed some of us when you kept mute over the apparent human right violations.

I am afraid it will always be difficult for a human rights activist, who doubled up as an active politician to take his/her own government to task over human rights violations.

“I see my work in public service as an opportunity to serve humanity and particularly Ghana though others may see it as an achievement or an attestation”. “It was a difficult situation and a decision to take but I reflected on it and said that, it provides an opportunity for me to step into government and use my knowledge to better the lives of people”.

“It doesn’t matter who is in power, my duty is to serve humanity and I will forever be a human rights activist”. “I cannot throw away my 23 years’ experience in law,” Oye Lithur told Maame Broni”.

As a matter of fact, it is quite ironic as to how an active politician who happens to be a Cabinet Minister could battle her own government over political and civil rights violations.

Columnist: Badu, K