The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), in collaboration with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF),has organised a workshop to sensitise and train senior officers of the Police and Prisons Services on the ACHPR’s Guidelines on Conditions of Arrest, police custody and pre-trial detention in Africa(the Luanda Guidelines).
The two-day training workshop was aimed not only at sensitising participants on the Luanda Guidelines and its implementation toolkits, but also the Guidelines on Sexual Violence and its consequences, especially in relation to persons in detention centres and prisons. The purpose of the Guidelines is to guide and support Member States of the African Union in effectively implementing their commitments and obligations to combat sexual violence and its consequences
Welcoming participants to the workshop, the Deputy Commissioner of CHRAJ, Mr Richard Quayson, noted that Ghana, as a member of the comity of nations and signatory to various international laws and treaties, is obliged to ensure that its practices relating to crime fighting and law enforcement conform to not only its own domestic standards, but also to universally accepted standards.
Mr Quayson, however, observed that in maintaining law, order, security and peace in the country, there have been times that law enforcement agencies and security personnel have not respected the dignity and liberties of individuals as expected. He was, therefore, hopeful that if properly applied, the Luanda Guidelines and the Guidelines on Combating Sexual Violence and its Consequences in Africa would serve as tools for ensuring that the dignity of the individual is well protected during arrest and detention.
He entreated participants to take full advantage of the workshop to build capacity and help advance the frontiers of human dignity and liberty in Ghana. He assured all that CHRAJ would continue to partner with other stakeholders to pursue its vision of ensuring a truly free and just society, where human dignity and rights are protected, where power is accountable, and governance is transparent.
Delivering a speech on behalf of the Director-General, the Director of Operations of the Ghana Prisons Services, Mr Sylvester Rabbles, said although the Service has over the years strived to ensure that the rights of prisoners, including pre-trial detainees, are observed, certain factors beyond its control have hampered its resolve in this regard. He mentioned overcrowding as a major factor which adversely affects the quality of prisons service delivery in the areas of food service, healthcare provision, bedding, sanitation, education and life skills provision.
According to Mr Rabbles, as of 28th September, 2018, there were a total of 15,063 prisoners held in custody against a total authorised capacity of 9,875, with a corresponding general overcrowding rate of 52.5%. He also mentioned budgetary and logistical constraints as well as the slow pace of investigations and prosecution leading to prolonged stay in pre-trial detention as other challenges bedevilling the Service.
Mr Rabbles gave assurances that the Ghana Prisons Service would ensure that the relevant topics of the workshop are incorporated into its human rights training curriculum to augment training on national human rights laws and international instruments relating to the treatment of prisoners for its officers.
There were other solidarity messages from representatives of APCOF, ACHPR and the Ghana Police Service, pledging their support and commitment to upholding the rights of prisoners and pre-trial detainees, as well as in fighting against sexual violence and other forms of abuses in Africa.