The U.S. Department of State recently released its 2022 annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices, which highlighted several human rights abuses in Ghana. The report cited the government and its officials for arbitrary or unlawful killings, extrajudicial killings, torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, restrictions on free expression and media, interference with peaceful assembly, serious government corruption, lack of investigation of gender-based violence, and crimes targeting LGBTQI+ persons and those with disabilities.
The report noted that although the government had taken some steps to address corruption and human rights abuses by officials, impunity remained a problem. Corruption, brutality, uneven training, lack of oversight, and an overburdened judicial system contributed to police impunity. The police often failed to respond to reports of crimes, and in many instances, only responded to complaints when members of the public paid for police transportation and other operating expenses.
One example cited in the report was the case of Oliver Barker-Vormawor, an activist critical of the government, who was arrested by police on February 11 in response to a series of Facebook posts. Initially charged with misdemeanour charges of making false statements, the police later upgraded the charges to felony treason and held him in prison for 35 days before a judge released him on bail. This case illustrates the government’s limitations on free expression and its use of the legal system to silence dissent.
The report’s findings raise concerns about the state of human rights in Ghana and the government’s commitment to upholding them. The government must take urgent action to address the abuses highlighted in the report, including improving police training and oversight, addressing corruption, and ensuring that officials are held accountable for human rights abuses. It must also take steps to protect the rights of marginalized groups, including LGBTQI+ persons and those with disabilities.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and the government must respect and protect it. The arrest of Barker-Vormawor is a clear violation of this right, and the government must ensure that activists and journalists are free to express themselves without fear of reprisal. Additionally, the government must address gender-based violence, which remains a pervasive problem in the country.
The U.S. Department of State’s report serves as a reminder of the importance of upholding human rights and the need for continued advocacy and action to protect them. It is crucial that governments and civil society organizations work together to ensure that human rights are respected and protected, and that those responsible for abuses are held accountable. Only then can we build a world that is truly just and equitable for all.