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Human Rights Committee considers the report of Ghana

Human Rights Committee

24 June 2016

The Human Rights Committee today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Ghana on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
 
Presenting the report, Dominic A. Ayine, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of Ghana, noted that the Government of Ghana was required to cultivate respect for human rights, and it had at its disposal all executive, legislative and judiciary agencies to uphold the highest standards of human rights.  The people of Ghana were determined to ensure that the current democratic progress in Ghana could not be reversed, and the country had played an active role in international human rights for championing causes that would expand the frontiers of democracy and human rights.
 
In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts commended the positive role that Ghana had played in international human rights bodies.  They sought clarifications on the issues such as constitutional and legal framework within which the Covenant was implemented, the selection and nomination processes of the Independent Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, discrimination against persons with mental disabilities, female sex workers, sexual minorities, violence against women and the elimination of harmful practices, namely “trokosi” (ritual servitude), polygamy, early and forced marriages.  Experts also inquired about the property and inheritance rights of spouses, abolition of the capital punishment, policy brutality and use of coerced confessions, high maternal mortality rates and access to safe and legal abortion, freedom of expression and attacks on journalists, detention deadlines, prison overcrowding, lack of juvenile justice judges, the implementation of the Mental Health Act of 2012, child labour, and corporal punishment against children.
 
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Ayine thanked the Committee for its diligent work.  He expressed hope that whatever came in the report of the Committee would reflect the situation in Ghana in a fair and true manner.  There was a rigorous enforcement of human rights in the country. 
 
Fabian Omar Salvioli, Committee Chairperson, in his concluding remarks, stated that it was important that the State party pay attention to the report of the Special Rapporteur on torture.  He also drew attention to the issues of mental health institutions, notable to the so-called prayer camps.
 
The delegation of Ghana included representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Permanent Mission of Ghana to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
 
The Committee will next meet in public on Monday, 27 June, at 10 a.m. to discuss the methods of work, and to hear from non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions from Ecuador, Burkina Faso and Argentina. 
 
 
Presentation of the Report
 
DOMINIC A. AYIN, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of Ghana, stated that the Constitution of Ghana had entrenched provisions guaranteeing the fundamental human rights and freedoms, such as those stipulated in the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  The Constitution had for the first time established a Human Rights Court and an Independent Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice.  The Government was required to cultivate respect for human rights, and it had at disposal all executive, legislative and judiciary agencies to uphold the highest standards of human rights.  Under the Constitution, besides the establishment of fully independent judiciary, the independence of media was guaranteed in order to create space for people, including civil society, to hold the Government accountable. 
 
Some 25 years earlier, after decades of military rule, the people of Ghana, through a referendum, had overwhelmingly chosen a constitutional democracy as the preferred model of government in which every citizen could freely exercise their rights.  The national motto was “freedom and justice”, in recognition of the fact that those formed the ground for the promotion and protection of universally accepted human rights standards and norms.  To that end, the environment to foster a vibrant independent civil society activism in law and practice had been regarded as indispensable to the democratic process in Ghana.
 
Mr. Ayin said that Ghana continued to have its problems, as any other country.  In the long run, however, criticism and public debate should lead to reforms, which made democracies resilient.  The people of Ghana were determined to ensure that the current democratic progress in Ghana could not be reversed.  During its third term in the Human Rights Council, Ghana had played an active role in championing causes that would expand the frontiers of democracy and human rights.  Those included extending standing invitations to all Special Procedures and mandate holders to visit Ghana.  Ghana also belonged to the core cross-regional groups or groups of friends for initiatives, such as on the protection of children in armed conflict, the Convention Against Torture initiative, and the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as business and human rights.  In an age of interdependence, no country should be allowed to use the principle of sovereignty as a shield behind which it would undermine human rights.   Ghana subscribed to the view that human rights everywhere should be of concern to people everywhere, Mr. Ayin concluded.    
 
Question by Experts
 
One Expert expressed hope that Ghana would continue to take on new international obligations and responsibilities, and that it would ratify the Optional Protocols to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Political Rights, the Covenant on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention Against Torture.  He commended the great number of reforms adopted by Ghana since the 1990s, notably those that aimed to eliminate harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation and discrimination against persons with HIV and albinism.  He raised the issue of the constitutional and legal framework within which the Covenant was implemented.  There was a dual lack: the Covenant was not incorporated into domestic law, and there was also a dearth of a mechanism for the implementation of observations.  Did the State party plan to correct that dual lack? 
 
The Expert also asked for information on the selection and nomination processes of the Independent Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, and about measures taken to ensure diversity of that body.  The Commission did not have sufficient resources to carry out its mandate in a satisfactory manner.  It did not have the right to make self-referrals.  Did the State party intend to reform the appointment procedure to step up pluralism and to start referrals?  Did it intend to create the Democracy Fund to allow for sufficient resources?  As for the 2013 special mechanism to report on cases of discrimination, especially against persons with HIV, what were the reported cases and how were they handled?
 
On discrimination against persons with mental disabilities, it was previously reported that such type of discrimination had continued, particularly in the private sector.  There was no effective oversight and monitoring mechanisms.  As for the discrimination against female sex workers, there were reports of widespread abuse by police forces.  Discrimination against persons with albinism took place in schools, residential areas and businesses.  What measures had been taken to eradicate stigmatization of those people?
 
Another Expert regretted that the questions asked about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intrasex persons remained unanswered.  What was the meaning of “unnatural carnal knowledge” which was criminalized under Ghana’s criminal law?  Such persons faced widespread discrimination in education and employment.  Some 27 complaints of discrimination had been submitted to the Independent Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice.  What measures had been taken to protect the victims of such discrimination? 
 
One Expert inquired when the draft bills on marriage and the property rights of spouses would be adopted.  What changes would the new bill bring?  If spouses could not inherit, how would they apply for loans?  In 2002, there had been some effort to increase the participation of women in district assemblies.  What was the outcome of those efforts?  There was a target to increase the participation of women to 40 per cent.  As for the participation of women in land administration processes, were they paid the same amount of money as men, asked the Expert.   
 
Concerning violence against women, an Expert noted that female genital mutilation stood at three per cent, whereas 93 per cent of women were against that practice.  Were there prosecutions of perpetrators and was there any redress for victims?  What measures had been taken to end the practice of “trokosi” (ritual servitude) and polygamy?  Abuses within polygamist unions often included early and forced marriages.  There were 27 per cent of girls in Ghana married before their eighteenth birthday, which was contrary to the law.  When did the State party intend to eliminate camps for women  accused of being witches?  Some 10.3 per cent of reported cases of gender-based violence had resulted in successful convictions of perpetrators.  What happened to other perpetrators, and were there any shelters for victims of domestic violence?
 
Question was also asked on the progress achieved with respect to the capital punishment.  Those sentences were still handed down, and mandatorily so for the case of high treason.  What was the Government’s position on the abolishment of the capital punishment?  The majority of people seemed to support the abolition of the capital punishment.  Did the Government intend to commute all capital punishments to lifetime imprisonment? 
 
What measures had been taken to restrain the excessive use of force by law enforcement agents, in line with the Covenant?  What kind of compensation was provided to victims of excessive use of force?  There was no independent mechanism to investigate such acts within the police.  The Ministry of the Interior had announced the establishment of such an independent mechanism, but that had not taken place yet.  Often the police forces themselves conducted such investigations. 
 
What were measures regarding the high maternal mortality rates and access to safe and legal abortion?  There had been 10,000 cases of unsafe abortions in 2010 and 16,000 cases in 2011. 
 
Some prisoners were forced to carry certain tasks, such as acting as wardens (the so-called “black coats”) and would then beat other prisoners with batons under the supervision of prison officers.  Were there specific regulations against the use of violence by the “black coats”?  Did the Government intend to replace the “black coats” system by a system that used trained officers? 
 
Concerning freedom of expression, what alterative steps had been taken by the State party to deter and eliminate police brutality against journalists?  Had there been any prosecutions against the offending personnel?  According to independent sources, Ghana had the highest number of attacks on journalists in 2014.  How effective were the efforts to uphold the Covenant rights that were not covered by the domestic law?
 
As for torture, why had it taken the Government so long to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, asked one Expert.  Even without the ratification of the Optional Protocol, the Government could still go ahead and adopt adequate domestic legislation.  The Committee was concerned about the degree of independence of the internal investigation mechanism for the cases of torture of the Ministry of the Interior.  What had been the number of complaints of alleged torture and police misconduct?  There had been reports of complaints of ill-treatment in prisons, and that such complaints had been handled by the police forces themselves.  There had also been reports of a widespread use of roadblocks that complicated everyday life and were used by the police to extract bribes. 
 
Another Expert commended the positive role that Ghana had played in international human rights bodies.  However, he voiced concern over the 2014 cases of alleged use of torture in initial phases of police investigations, namely to extract confessions. 
 
With respect to prayer camps for persons with mental illness, question was asked about efforts made to ensure that there was proper and safe access for all who needed treatment.  Were there efforts to register all prayer camps in order to monitor and prevent potential abuse?  What measures had been taken to educate the general public about mental illnesses in order to limit prejudice?
 
Replies by the Delegation
 
DOMINIC A. AYIN, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of Ghana, explained that the Constitution of Ghana was very clear and that any law in contravention with the Constitution was null and void.  If an international treaty was inconsistent with the Constitution, it would also be null and void.  At the same time, as the rights enumerated in the Constitution were not exhaustive, it was possible to include any other human rights stipulated in the Covenant into the national jurisprudence.  Sometimes, it depended on how lawyers argued before the court.  Ghana could indeed directly introduce legislation to protect the Covenant rights before the actual ratification. 
 
Concerning the death penalty, certain constitutional provisions stipulated that the capital punishment was  mandatory in some cases, including, for example, high treason.  Unless there was a referendum to amend the Constitution in that respect, and unless 75 per cent of the population supported it, the Government could not proceed to make different provisions. 
 
With respect to the selection and nomination processes of the Independent Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, the delegation stated that the Constitution guaranteed independence of the judiciary.  The Commissioner and other members were equivalent to judges of the High Court.  The same procedural mechanisms applied to them as to judges.  The independence of the Commission was non-negotiable.  It was true that there were insufficient funds for the Commission, which also had to rely on donors’ support.  The Government, however, did not intend to make the Commission subservient to it. 
 
As for discrimination, under Article 17 of the Constitution all forms of discrimination were prohibited.  Regarding concrete measures to fight discrimination against persons with mental disabilities, the Government had passed the Mental Health Act in order to codify and ensure internationally acceptable practices and services to such persons, respecting their dignity.  Concerning discrimination against female sex workers, it was still illegal for anyone to solicit and engage in prostitution.  The Government was indeed taking measures in cooperation with the police, to limit such discrimination.  As for discrimination against persons with albinism, the delegation explained that people in Ghana were not taught to hate persons with albinism. 
 
Under the Criminal Code, “unnatural carnal knowledge” applied to anyone who had sexual intercourse without consent, as well as to the same-sex sexual intercourse, and intercourse with an animal.  The delegation clarified that the application of the provision of “unnatural carnal knowledge” was based on the absence of consent.  Where there was an absence of consent, the law would be applied. 
 
Concerning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intrasex persons, the delegation said that the Government had created a stigma and discrimination online reporting system.  The police were required to give such persons a human-rights based treatment.  Until the society was capable to openly accept them and make relevant legal changes, the Government would continue providing them with a sense of security.  Ghana’s position on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intrasex rights was not discriminatory.  However, the present state of law in Ghana did not allow same-sex marriage.  Such a matter had to be decided at a referendum. 
 
As for the property and inheritance rights of spouses, the 1985 law sought to improve property rights regimes, which were unfair to women.  Over time, the Government had realized that the 1985 law was not adequate.  The current draft bill, thus, aimed to define the rights of extended family members.  The draft bill on property rights of spouses was being currently reviewed by the Parliament.  It contained some controversial provisions because it proposed that non-married partners could also claim property rights, which was opposed by those with a status of married spouse. 
 
The following forms of marriages existed in Ghana: monogamous marriages, marriages under Mohammedan rite, which could be potentially polygamous, and customary marriages, which could also be potentially polygamous.  Thus, according to the law, polygamy was not illegal. 
 
Female genital mutilation was a criminal offence, as long as it was reported, and the perpetrators were prosecuted.  A lot of work had been done on witch camps, with the involvement of civil society.  The Government had been very active in trying to ensure that no persons living in witch camps was treated badly.  The cultural context of witch camps was very problematic.  Official action in the camps was difficult because residents themselves refused to be resettled as they were likely to suffer some form of discrimination if resettled in other communities. 
 
As for gender-based and domestic violence,  the delegation stated that the  percentage of reported cases was much higher than the percentage of prosecutions.  The police had been trained and socialized in how to deal with such cases, namely in provision of support and legal services to victims.  Frequently it happened that due to a family situation, victims would require that the prosecution be stopped, which lowered the number of convictions. 
 
“Trokosi” referred to ritual servitude performed to pay off ancestors’ debts.  The Government recognized the difficulty to eradicate that practice.   People who practiced “trokosi” believed that they had to continue with that practice, so the police could not often be successful in their interventions. 
 
The delegation noted that Ghana had not carried out the capital punishment since 1997. 
 
With respect to alleged police brutality, the Government’s efforts over the years to set up monitoring mechanisms across law enforcement forces had not yielded desired results.  A paper had been submitted to the Cabinet on the establishment of an independent police complaints commission.  The Government was concerned about the reports on police brutality.  Police forces needed a lot of training on human rights.  There was a proposal to station paralegals and students of law in police stations in order to help with such training. 
 
As for the widespread use of roadblocks, the delegation informed that there were 54 of those and they were placed there to respond to specific security threats.  However, the Government would reduce their number.  Some cases of police brutality indeed occurred, but some of them were not grave.   
 
As for the use of prisoners (“black coats”) to administer disciplinary measures against other prisoners, the delegation said that that mechanism was not meant to replace official guards, but rather to develop leadership and a sense of responsibility among prisoners.  It was put in place in order to pick role models among those prisoners who could excel. 
 
Concerning torture and mistreatment in detention centers, it was explained that independent external investigators could participate in investigations.  Laws were amended to eliminate some obsolete punishment measures in detention centres, such as flogging.  Officers were aware that torture and maltreatment in detention centres were unacceptable, which was why such occurrences were rare.  Sentencing guidelines were in place to guide judges in appropriate procedures. 
 
There had been reports of extractions of confessions by the police.  However, the law strictly forbade the use of such confessions.  The officer involved would be sanctioned through a disciplinary measure or court punishment. 
 
The Parliament of Ghana had just ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.  What was left to be done was to draw up an amendment to clarify the definition of torture and incorporate correlative and preventive mechanisms on torture into domestic legislations.  Those acts would then be sent to the Cabinet for approval before it was presented in front of the Parliament.  
 
Registration of religious bodies was mandatory under the military rule in Ghana, said the delegation.  The Government was aware of the problematic activities going on in prayer camps. 
 
Follow-up Questions by Experts
 
One Expert noted that Ghana lacked political will to deal with the problems and to pursue specific measures that needed to be adopted.  There was an impression that the will to reform remained deadlocked.  There was slight ambiguity in the answers provided by the delegation.  Difficulties stemmed from certain cultural practices.  All of that should be solved by means of education.  The Expert urged the delegation to demonstrate a greater commitment to transpose the Covenant into domestic legislation. 
 
Notwithstanding the complex process of constitutional reforms, he noted that referenda were not the best way to promote democracy and human rights, notably with respect to the abolition of the death penalty. 
 
Could there be self-referral with respect to human rights cases in the work of the Independent Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice? 
 
What measures were in place to assist refugees and asylum seekers as they were waiting for an answer to their asylum demands?   How about their access to free legal representation? 
 
As for juvenile justice, an Expert asked about measures in place to ensure juveniles’ right to a fair trial, namely the presumption of innocence. There had been reports that in some areas, like in Accra, there had been only one juvenile justice judge, and that the police had questioned juveniles without their guardians.  Legal representation to juveniles should be free of charge. 
 
When would the Parliament pass the bill on the Right to Information, asked the Expert.
 
There was a major concern that the 48-hour deadline for presenting someone in front of the judge was not respected.  There was an unlawful practice by the police to arrest people during weekends, thus exceeding the 48-hour detention deadline.  It seemed that during the first several hours detainees did not have access to a lawyer.  To what extent would the Legal Aid Commission help resolve that problem?  Detainees who had just been arrested were accompanied by a state doctor.  In what ways did that measure ensure security?  There were practical difficulties in the implementation of the Habeas Corpus Act.  Some individuals in preventive pre-trial detention were virtually forgotten, and there was no rigorous registration system for arrests. 
 
As for the “Justice for All” programme, which had allowed for lesser overcrowding in prisons, how would the durability of that programme ensured?  It seemed that its costs were not assumed by the State.  Did the State party consider setting aside a budget for that purpose?
 
It appeared that there were still many problems with the implementation of the Mental Health Act of 2012.  There were only 12 psychiatrists and 600 nurses for the entire population of 25 million.  How would the State party ensure that mental health assistance would be covered by medical insurance?   A related issue concerned the prayer camps in which there was recorded abuse of persons with mental health illnesses. 
 
An Expert noted that prison overcrowding was one of the major problems in Ghana, as prisoners were at a risk of various diseases.  For example, the maximum security prison of Nsawam was intended to accommodate 851 prisoners, but instead it housed 3,459 prisoners.  What future measures would be taken to resolve the overcrowding problem?  Would the State party construct new prisons or perhaps develop alternatives to prisons?
 
With respect to child labour, the State party indicated that its laws prohibited slavery and child labour, and it cited a national plan to eliminate the worst forms of child labour in partnership with the International Labour Organization.  However, it seemed that there had been a discrepancy between the law and practice.  According to the available information, 21.8 per cent of children between the age five and 17 worked , and 14.2 per cent worked in dangerous sectors, such as fishing and cocoa collection.  What would the State party do to address that discrepancy?  What measures could dissuade parents from sending their children to such work?  Was it true that in 2007 the Government had launched a programme on the fight against poverty which would increase school attendance by children, and what were its results?
 
Turning to the issue of human trafficking, one Expert hailed the adoption of the 2005 Law on the Fight against Human Trafficking.  It appeared that the Government had established an inter-ministerial committee on human trafficking, but it had not provided any information on the measures undertaken.  What concrete measures had been taken to fight human trafficking?
 
As for corporal punishment against children, it was noted that Ghana’s legislation prohibited such punishment.  However, reports received by the Committee indicated that there were no laws that directly prohibited corporal punishment.  Some 10 per cent of children were subject to violent disciplinary measures, whereas 94 per cent were subject to corporal punishment at home.  What did the Government do to implement previous Universal Periodic Review recommendations in that respect? 
 
One Expert asked what happened to children in witch camps.  Were there any programmes for the perpetrators of domestic violence to change their violent behavior?
 
In the past ten years, a total of 138 of attacks against journalists had been recorded in Ghana, out of which over 38 per cent had been committed by security agencies. What was the response of the Government to those reports?
 
As for surveillance and interception of communications, were there procedures for examining, using and storing the data obtained through interception?  The Government was exploring a court order to prevent the leaked secret tape recordings.  What was an update on that?
 
Concerning birth registration, what happened to refugee children born outside of Ghana who did not have their original birth certificates? 
 
What measures were taken to disseminate information about the Covenant and the Optional Protocol and to what extent were individual communications of the Committee known in Ghana?  In preparing the report to the Committee, had civil society been involved?  
 
One Expert noted that female genital mutilation could be better prevented through education and awareness raising rather than through criminalization.   What trainings and awareness raising did the State party plan in order to fight that practice?
 
As for polygamy, another Expert noted that it was important to indicate the general direction in which the State party was going, keeping in mind that only men were allowed to marry multiple women and not the other way around. 
 
Concerning the problem of coerced confessions, an Expert inquired whether it was just coerced confessions that were rejected by courts, or other statements as well.  Which authorities would be responsible for investigating and prosecuting when such coerced confessions were found to have taken place?  How would the State party ensure that the new national prevention mechanism would have the sufficient resources and independence to perform its tasks, asked the Expert.
 
Replies by the Delegation
 
DOMINIC A. AYIN, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of Ghana, explained that the Attorney-General was the principal legal adviser of the Government on all criminal offences.  The Attorney-General had the right to engage in all legal proceedings.  As for the reversal of the stigmatization of persons with mental disabilities and illnesses, he noted that cultural beliefs required a lot of time to be changed.  Nevertheless, the Government hoped that the public education programmes set up by the Ministry of Health would help reverse such stigmatization.    
 
The referendum method was enshrined in the Constitution as a democratic mechanism for decision-making, which was why the constitutional provisions on the death penalty and treason had to remain as they were.  The self-referral in human rights cases by the Independent Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice was under consideration. 
The right to a fair trial in juvenile justice was in conformity with the best international practices.  It was rare that juveniles would be imprisoned.  Normally, juveniles would be taken back to their communities.  There was no way that a trial for juveniles would continue for longer than six months.  Moreover, the burden of proof was on the prosecution rather than on the defendant.  It was not true that there was only one juvenile justice judge in Accra; every district court set up a juvenile court.  As for the unwillingness of the police to trace and contact juveniles’ guardians, social affairs officers would ensure that guardians were present.  In fact, the legal process could not proceed without the presence of guardians. 
 
As for maternal mortality, the delegation stated that it had decreased, but Ghana had not met its Millennium Development Goal in that regard.  Abortion remained a criminal offence.  However, a wide window was open to exceptions, such as in the cases of incest and rape, fetal abnormality, or when the pregnancy posed serious health threats to the woman. 
 
Ghana had an open-door policy towards refugees. Many were given the option of local integration.  Ghana had started issuing travel documents for refugees at its own expense, and was part of the Economic Community of West African States’ initiative to reduce statelessness.  It was also a party to the African Union Convention on the Rights of the Child.  If a refugee child of unknown parents was born outside Ghana but lived in Ghana, it would be automatically receive Ghanaian nationality. 
 
Concerning child labour, investigations showed that not only Ghanaian children worked on cocoa farms.  There were children from Côte d’Ivoire working on those farms as well, whereas some children were accompanying their parents.  The Government had rescued more than 2,000 children who had been working in the mining industry. 
 
There was a practice in Ghana of the police arresting people on weekends in order to avoid the 48-hour detention deadline, and to gather preliminary evidence.  The Government had done a lot to discourage such a practice when it was deliberate.  There were instances when persons arrested on weekends had no access to legal aid.  The Government thus made efforts to transform the legal aid system into a legal aid commission which would be funded from the Democracy Fund. 
 
The “Justice for All” programme had begun as an initiative in 2008 and was now institutionalized.  There was a committee that ensured that the programme functioned, and that even when donor funds were not available, the programme would continue.  It ensured that there no prisoners would be admitted to a prison without a warrant.  There were long-term plans to decrease prison overcrowding.  The bill on alternative centers was also to be passed, and trainings for prison officers were in place.   
 
The bill on the Right to Information had been before the Parliament since 2010.  The Parliament was expected to pass the bill by the end of July 2016.  Certain information was exempt from being publicly released, stressed the delegation. 
 
Ghana had a very comprehensive legal act for the protection of children’s rights.  Laws were in place expressly prohibiting corporal punishment of children.  As for children in witch camps, the delegation stated it had no empirical data on that issue. 
 
Victims of domestic violence sometimes demanded the withdrawal of complaints in order to prevent the break-up of family.  However, in situations of repeated abuses, there had been no pattern of withdrawal of complaints. 
 
As for surveillance, interception of communications and airing of wire tapes, the Constitution guaranteed the right to privacy. 
Regarding criminalization of female genital mutilation, the Government had been engaged in a long-term public campaign against that practice.  The process of eradication of that practice was continuing.  Concerning polygamy, the Government would keep its current marriage laws, which permitted polygamy under Islamic and customary laws.  Bigamy, on the other hand, was forbidden by law, which meant that if a man was in a monogamous marriage, he could not be married to another women.  The African Union had adopted a charter on the rights of women, to which Ghana was a party, stating that it would encourage monogamy.  Polygamy in Ghana today was not as practiced as much as it used be. 
 
Courts would exclude coerced confessions as evidence.  The authorities would then mandatorily pursue police officers who extorted confession through torture.  Ghana had recently hosted a seminar on criminalization of torture and part of the discussions held referred to the best practices on types of mechanisms to implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.  Ghana had not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights because the national laws had higher standards in that respect.  
 
Follow-up Questions by Experts
 
One Expert objected to the delegation’s statement that monogamy was a “foreign invasion.” 
 
Another Expert asked for details in writing about the maternal mortality rates due to illegal abortions.  According to his information, it stood at 11 per cent.  Were there any reports of abuse carried out by the “black coats” in detention centers?
 
Concluding Remarks
 
DOMINIC A. AYIN, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of Ghana, thanked the Committee for its diligent work.  He expressed hope that whatever came in the report of the Committee would reflect in a true and fair manner the situation in Ghana.   There was a rigorous enforcement of human rights in the country.  He assured the Committee that the Government was committed to the protection of the rights of its citizens, even though sometimes it faced financial and technical capacity resources to do so.
 
FABIAN OMAR SALVIOLI, Committee Chairperson, said that it was important that the State party pay attention of the  report of the Special Rapporteur on torture.  He also drew attention to the issues of mental health institutions, notable to the so-called prayer camps.
 
 __________

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