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Ghana: UN rights experts condemn arbitrary arrest of LGBT human rights defenders, urge their release

GENEVA (4 June 2021) – UN human rights experts* today condemned the arrest and alleged arbitrary detention of 21 people defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse (LGBT) community.

On 20 May 2021, Ghananian police arrested 21 human rights defenders (16 women and five men) who were conducting paralegal training for the protection of the human rights of sexual minorities in Ho, Ghana. They were remanded in police custody by the Ho Circuit Court and charged with unlawful assembly.

"We are deeply concerned by the arrests of the human rights defenders. All evidence available to us points to the fact that they were detained while they were peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association," said the experts.

"Human rights defenders play a key role in protecting vulnerable groups from violence and discrimination and empowering them to claim their human rights. Ghana should ensure that no one is criminalised for defending the fundamental rights of LGBT people."

The experts also pointed out that the root of the arrests allegedly lies in the criminalisation of consensual same-sex conduct. In Ghana, same-sex sexual activity falls under the definition of "unnatural carnal knowledge", under section 104 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960, which imposed a maximum penalty of three years' imprisonment.

"Detention on discriminatory grounds, including for combating violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, is arbitrary by its own nature and violates international human rights law. The Government of Ghana must release them immediately and unconditionally," the experts said.

ENDS

*The experts: Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; Elizabeth Broderick (Chair), Melissa Upreti (Vice Chair), Dorothy Estrada-Tanck, Ivana Radačić, and Meskerem Geset Techane, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur), Elina Steinerte (Vice-chairperson), Mumba Malila, Miriam Estrada-Castillo, Priya Gopalan, Working Group on arbitrary detention; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page: Ghana

For more information and media requests please contact Taro Tanaka (+41 22 928 9725 / ttanaka@ohchr.org) or write to ie-sogi@ohchr.org

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org).

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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