Universal Periodic Review
Second session meeting highlights
5 May 2008 (afternoon)
For use of information media; not an official record
The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Ghana this afternoon, during which 44 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.
Presenting the national report of Ghana was JOE GHARTLEY, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Ghana, who noted that there had been a distinctive improvement in the promotion and protection of human rights in Ghana. The 2005 African Peer Review Mechanism of NEPAD, under which Ghana was the first country to be reviewed, noted that there was little evidence of human rights violations between 1999 and 2004, and noted that Ghana was committed to the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Among the human rights programmes enacted were those pertaining to domestic violence, human trafficking and eradicating child labour, among others. Combating corruption was recognized by the State as one of the biggest obstacles in fulfilling the respect for human rights. The Attorney General’s Office and the Ghanaian Bar Association were cooperating in the provision of legal aid and access to justice. It was noted that political parties had to be democratically run and had to abide by the provision of the Constitution. As a result of several State-led programmes and capacity building measures there had been an increase of women’s participation in government. The State had also made great strides in upholding the right to health through its National Health Insurance Scheme.
The head of delegation noted that female genital mutilation was criminalized per the State’s Criminal Code and programmes were created for victims of this practice. Health providers were also trained to tend to these victims. Concerning child trafficking, a law and a national plan of action had been developed and sensitization programmes had been carried out. Laws had also been strengthened to combat child labor. Among the various measures taken towards fulfilling human rights obligations were programmes to address the problem of overcrowding in prisons, capacity building for prosecutors and judicial officials, various efforts to combat corruption and human rights training for members of the police force, the Minister added. In 2006 a special unit was set up to address cases of domestic violence; the unit focused on victims support and received support from UNICEF. In 2006 a new minerals and mining act was passed which allowed for fair and adequate compensation for miners. Steps were also taken to ensure that the rights of miners and others affected by mining activities were respected to all as a result of mining activities, including workers, and vulnerable communities.
Addressing the issue of education, the Minister of State for Education, Science and Sports of Ghana, ELIZABETH OHENE, stated that education was free and compulsory for all children between kindergarten and secondary schools. Tuition was also free for universities. As a result of the State’s education reform policies school enrolment rates had increased by some 16%. Free bus rides and a school feeding programme. The State was of the view that education was essential for human rights protection.
During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the reforms undertaken to uphold a human rights culture in order to improve the rights of children, women and marginalized groups; efforts to increase the enrolment rate of girls in schools; steps to eradicate child labour; the efforts to enforce the right to health by the National Health Insurance Scheme and measures to strengthen preventive care; the steps to promote a free press in Ghana; the establishment of the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit; the State’s zero tolerance policy on corruption; the establishment of an independent Media Commission to promote freedom of expression; the creation of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice in compliance with the Paris Principles; the State’s School Feeding Programme; the creation of the Women’s Development Fund to improve women’s access to micro-credit facilities; and the National Policy Guidelines on Orphans and Other Children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.
Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to steps taken to enhance cooperation between State institutions and civil society groups; the functioning of the judicial complaint unit; the intention of the State to abolish the death penalty; whether the State intended to broaden the laws on domestic violence to address rape; preventive measures adopted against widowhood rites, female genital mutilation, ritual servitude of girls and violence against women perceived as witches; polygamy and child marriages; legislative, administrative and other measures taken to protect children from all forms of violence and to prohibit the use of corporal punishment; the ways to increase the number of women in government and parliament and women’s involvement in national, political and public life, in general; plans to strengthen the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs; measures taken to prevent existing societal discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS; and efforts taken to adequately respond to the needs of the AIDS orphans in the country, which numbered some 200,000 according to Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Other issues raised pertained to the effects of the current food crisis on the people in Ghana; how the Government was coping with the problem of foreign debt; how the Human Trafficking Act can be improved in order to better address and combat this issue; efforts taken to protect the economic, social and cultural rights of those affected by large scale mining; programmes in place to address the issue of access to safe drinking water and sanitation; the recent steps taken to adhere to the State’s international obligations concerning refugees and to ensure progress towards durable solutions for the remaining Liberian refugees in Ghana; cases of police brutality and mob justice; prison overcrowding; long imprisonment for remand prisoners; efforts to reduce lengthy prison sentences; and the results of the State’s anti-poverty programmes.
· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: That the Government take the measures to reinforce to the campaign against discrimination against women; to strengthen judicial structures against the corruption in the judiciary and enhance human rights training for judicial and police enforcement official with regard to violence against women; to eradicate cultural practices that violated the rights of women and girls, including acts of trokosi – ritual servitude of girls; to take efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation; to put an end to widowhood rites; to prohibit all forms of violence against children; to strengthen efforts to fully implement the recommendations adopted by the Committee on the Rights of the Child and to prohibit all forms of violence against children, including abolishing the use of corporal punishment; to take steps to address the problem of high rates of illiteracy rates; to take further steps to address discrimination against women and vulnerable groups including children; to remove impediments women may face in gaining access to justice; and to amend the Criminal Code to decriminalize sexual activity between consenting adults.
Other recommendations included: To provide full technical and financial support to improve the national machinery for the advancement of women; to continue to give increased attention to the gender gap between girls and boys in their advancement at all level of education; to expand coverage and access to services that prevented transmission of HIV from mother to child; to include a gender perspective and rights-based approach in the implementation of the State’s Rent Act with the goal of overcoming gender-based inequalities; to allow the Special Rapporteur on the right to education to visit the country; to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the death penalty; to ratify the Convention of disabled persons; to undertake measures to inform the general public of their rights; to pass the Freedom of Information Bill; to take measures to combat police brutality; and to intensify efforts to guarantee its people the right to food; and for the State under review to adopt a legal moratorium on the use of the death penalty. Some delegations also asked the State under review to share its experiences from its review under the African Peer Review Mechanism.
Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Pakistan, India, France, Senegal, China, Romania, Mali, the United Kingdom, Mexico, the Netherlands, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Cuba, the Russian Federation, Canada, the Philippines, Italy, South Africa, Switzerland, Germany, Slovenia, Brazil, Zambia, the Republic of Korea and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Observer States participating in the discussion were the Czech Republic, Tunisia, Finland, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso, Turkey, the United States, Algeria, Portugal, Ireland, Austria, Guinea, Chile, Tanzania, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco and Syria.
The 14-person delegation of Ghana consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Office, the Ministry for Education, Science and Sports, the Ministry of Manpower, Youth and Employment, the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs, the Ministry of Lands, Forestry and Mines, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, the Ghana Police Service and the Permanent Mission of Ghana to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Ghana are the Netherlands, Bolivia and Sri Lanka.
In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on Ghana can be found here.
The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Ghana on Wednesday, 7 May.
When the UPR Working Group continues its work tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Peru.
Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the UPR webpage - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx.
To access the webcast for the UPR session please visit http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp