2010 Human Rights Day celebration

Accra – Ghana joined the international community to mark this year’s Human Rights Day with the release of a Report on the State of Human Rights in Ghana prepared by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, CHRAJ. The report acknowledged that the country made “some progress in human rights” in the past year and hoped that in the coming year “the Government and all stakeholders will show greater interest in human rights work and ensure that all persons are given equal opportunity to enjoy their rights.”

Presenting highlights of the 250-page Report, a Deputy Commissioner at CHRAJ, Mr. Richard Quayson, noted that the aim of the report was to “measure the state’s compliance with its human rights obligations and make relevant recommendations to entrench a culture of human rights and peace” in Ghana. The focus of the report was on education, health, the rights of women and children, harmful cultural practices and the rights of people living in slums.

Mr. Quayson said the combined effects of the school feeding programme and the capitation grant had increased school enrolment and this helped to maintain appreciable number of pupils in school. He however, pointed to challenges like illegal charging of fees, delays in the release of the capitation grant and bad management of the grant.  He also urged the Ghana Education Service and school authorities to take steps to discourage corporal punishment.

The National Health Insurance Scheme, the report said, had brought financial relief to majority of Ghanaians in accessing health care in the country stressing that expectant mothers benefited immensely from the Scheme. This has invariably increased the workload of service providers as a result of increased hospital attendance without corresponding increase in the number of medical personnel and facilities. Also the scheme does not cover some ailments, was not geographical accessibility and most drugs under the Scheme were most of the time not available.

On HIV/AIDS, the report noted the effective efforts of the Government and other stakeholders in sensitizing Ghanaians to maintain low prevalence rates. It however, called for redoubling of efforts to raise awareness for Ghanaians to respond to voluntary counseling and testing for them to know their status to drive the prevalence rate of the disease further down.

According to Mr. Quayson, general conditions in prisons and police cells were poor and congestion and insanitary conditions needed to be tackled. The Commission blamed the Ghana Police Service for causing fear and panic among the residents of Nankpanduri in the Northern Region.  It reminded the police of its status as peace officers to be mindful of human rights abuses.

The UNHCR Representative in Ghana, Ms. Sharon Cooper delivered the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s message. Mr. Ban made it clear that it was the primary responsibility of the state to protect human rights advocates and if their lives were endangered then all were less secure.

He described human rights as “the foundation of freedom, peace, development and justice,” saying more often it was “courageous women and men striving to protect their own rights and the rights of others” who made rights real in people’s lives.  The Secretary-General observed that human rights defenders were a diverse group but all shared a “commitment to expose wrongdoing, protect the most vulnerable and end impunity.”

Mr. Ban pointed to the tremendous risk involved in the work of human rights defenders and used the occasion to salute them and pledged to do more to protect them.

The British High Commissioner in Ghana Dr. Nicholas Westcost commended the work of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice for making the people aware of their rights as well as their responsibilities. He noted the similarities between human rights practices in Ghana, the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries pointing to gender equality, children’s rights and capital punishment which he appealed to the Ghana Government to reflect on its present position.

The Head of the European Union Delegation in Ghana Mr. Claude Maerten presented a statement on EU’s efforts worldwide to promote human rights and reduce human suffering.

The media briefing was attended by representatives of Ministries, Government Departments and Agencies, the diplomatic community, UN agencies, human rights related institutions and NGOs, students, the media and the general public.