ECOWAS Court to create Legal Aid Fund to facilitate access to justice

Opening a two-day joint retreat organised by the Court and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Lagos, the judge said that when established, the fund would be a ‘ milestone achievement for the ECOWAS region’ and contribute to improving access to the Court.

 

Justice Atoki, who led the delegation of the Court to the retreat, said the 20-year-old Court had so far received a total of 559 cases, from which it delivered 130 rulings and 301 judgments, most of which relate to the human rights mandate of the Court, which continues to receive more complaints daily.

 

Despite these laudable achievements, she said many ECOWAS citizens were unaware of the existence of the Court and unable to access the Court for the protection of their rights, which explains why the Court has put in place strategies to give visibility to the Court.

 

In this regard, Justice Atoki said the Court had intensified efforts to enhance awareness of its existence through its external Court sessions, the online publication of its judgments and in the Law Reports of the Court for dissemination within the and outside the region in addition to undertaking sensitization missions to Member States to raise awareness of key stakeholders about the work of the Court.

 

Additionally, she said the Court would collaborate with international organisations such as the UNHCR, with which it signed an initial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2015, amongst others, to improve on the protection of human rights.

 

However, the judge said that like other victims of human rights violation, the lack of awareness was, amongst other factors, inhibiting refugees, migrant, internally displaced persons and stateless persons to petition the Court as it concerns the violation of these rights by Member States.

 

She added: ‘this accounts for the sad situation where the Court has not yet been seized of any complaint of violations affecting the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, stateless persons and persons at risk of statelessness.”

 

In his remarks at the opening, the Deputy Director for Protection of the UNHCR, Mr Xavier Ceach said that judges, lawyers and other legal practitioners play a critical role in the social change and their role to advance refugee protection could not be disputed as the legal community had over the years been at the forefront of the refugee case law as well as legal and normative reform interpretation or court decisions.

 

Mr Ceach, who has responsibility for West and Central Africa, noted that the many ECOWAS Member States had initiated law reforms on asylum, drafting of legal and/normative framework on asylum, protection of Internally Displaced Persons or nationality law or civil documentation.

 

While acknowledging that the adoption of a new law or revisiting it progressively is not an absolute solution to all problems, the UNHCR official said that Court could contribute to the promotion of a regional asylum and solutions framework through the exercise of its advisory and contentious mandates.

 

He advised ECOWAS Member States to implement the 1993 Revised Treaty and all other subsidiary legal instruments that impact on the persons of interest to the UNHCR namely the Protocol on Free Movement and its supplementary Protocols.

 

It is through the implementation of these instruments, he added, that refugees and other persons of concern to UNHCR would be able to voice their plight, secure protection and support and find their way towards greater stability.

 

Mr Ceach described the ECOWAS Court as ‘an increasingly active and bold adjudicator of Human Rights,’ which since it acquired its human rights jurisdiction in 2005, has issued numerous decisions condemning Human Rights violations by its Member States.

 

The retreat, which is being attended by two judges of the Court and 18 other staff, will evaluate the UNHCR-ECCJ partnership to identify the gaps, challenges, and opportunities for improved synergies to build a more operational and efficient partnership.

 

It will also agree on ways to enhance the role of the ECOWAS Court in upholding the protection of the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, stateless persons and those at risk of statelessness in the region as well as identify new areas of engagement. Moreover, it will validate and adopt a four-year joint plan of action.

 

The retreat is being moderated by the Professor Tawfiq Ladan, the Director General of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.

 

Source: Ghana News Agency

Buipewura Jinapor calls for more investment in aviation in northern Ghana

Buipewura Abdulai Jinapor II, Paramount Chief of the Buipe Traditional Area in the Savannah Region, has called for more investment in aviation in northern Ghana to improve traveling.

With mirth, Buipewura Jinapor commended Goldstar Air, a private airline company, for adding to the airlines already operating in Ghana, and on its planned opening up of the norther sector.

 

“Many people prefer air travel from the northern part of Ghana to Accra, but it seems the aircraft are not enough,” he said.

 

He cited the case of Africa World Airlines, owned by Togbe Afede, which flies five times a day yet demands for tickets keep increasing.

 

Buipewura Jinapor made the call when Goldstar Air presented a citation to honour him as a “Zealous defender” and “Indefatigable leader.”

 

The citation was signed by Mr Eric Bannerman, the Chief Executive Officer of Goldstar Air, and presented to the Buipewura at his Palace.

 

It reads: “His Royal Majesty Buipewura Jinapor II, for your tenacity as a zealous defender in the Gonja Traditional Area and your indefatigable leadership as the Overlord of the Buipe Traditional Area, in your honour Goldstar Air will name one of our aircraft after you.”

 

Alhaji Hamza Saaka, the Air Marshal of Goldstar Air, in a telephone interview with the Ghana News Agency, said the citation came some days after Goldstar Air had presented sanitizers, face shields, and liquid detergents to the Traditional Area to protect celebrants against the Covid-19 during the Buipe Dambai Traditional Festival.

 

Goldstar Air was getting ready to operate in Africa and 12 other destinations in Europe, Middle East, Asia Pacific, the Caribbean and North America, he said.

 

“It is worth dying for a nation that honours its living heroes and heroines and, as a result, the company believes it is appropriate to honor distinguished Ghanaians,” he said.

 

“Goldstar Air will construct a 250 x 250 x 75 hangar in Tamale for aircraft maintenance and refurbishment, as well as use the Tamale Airport as our second hub.”

 

“The Airline is planning the Goldstar City project, which will be located in Tamale and will contain housing, a training school, and other amenities for our engineers, pilots, cabin crew, and other staff.”

 

When fully functional, the facility would create new commercial prospects while opening up northern Ghana to the rest of the world, Alhaji Saaka said.

 

“Our goal as Ghanaians is to create a cutting-edge aviation sector capable of competing in worldwide markets in terms of safety, quality, dependability, timeliness, efficiency, and prices.”

Source: Ghana News Agency

Deputy A-G commends Bono Paramount Queen Mothers’ Association

Mr Alfred Tuah-Yeboah, the Deputy Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, has commended the leadership and members of the Bono Paramount Queen Mothers’ Association for the maiden annual conference and training workshop on mediation.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the workshop in Sunyani organized by the Association, in collaboration with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), Mr Tuah-Yeboah said Ghana had “veered into the trajectory of using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to bridge the gap between the traditional and formal legal systems as established in the passage of the ADR Act, 2010, Act 798.”

The two-day event on the theme “The Queen Mother in Mediation” was attended by Paramount Queen Mothers of both the Bono and Bono East Regions and representatives of the National Queen Mothers Platform.

 

It aimed at building the capacity and skills of the queen mothers to facilitate an efficient and amicable resolution of disputes and conflicts through the mediation process.

 

Mr Tuah-Yeboah said the Queen Mothers were “essential cogs in the country’s machinery of dispute resolution,” saying the training workshop had come at the right time to assist in clearing the chronic chieftaincy disputes in the two regions.

 

The Deputy Attorney-General said the low settlement rates of the many cases filed each year in the courts were exasperating the problem of dispute resolution and consequently leaving cases to languish for years, resulting in backlogs.

 

He said due to the judicial backlog and the inaccessibility of the courts to many of the citizenry in many cases, a chief or a queen mother might be the only practical dispute resolution option.

 

Touching on the nature of the mediation process, Mr Tuah-Yeboah explained it was voluntary since “decision-making is arrived at solely from the disputants without any force from the mediator.”

 

He said a mediator facilitated and controlled the process to avoid misinterpretation, misunderstanding and shifting attention to other matters which were not relevant to the dispute, saying “mediation is a consensual process in which a neutral third party helps others to negotiate a solution to a problem.”

 

Mr Tuah-Yeboah told the participants, mediators unlike judges or arbitrators had no legal powers to render judgement or an award but only used persuasion and goodwill to enable the parties in conflict to arrive at a mutually beneficial settlement.

 

In a welcoming address, Nana Yaa Ansua, the Paramount Queen Mother of Drobo Traditional Area in the Jaman South Municipality and President of the Association, said by their status as Paramount Queen Mothers, they needed to acquire mediation skills to facilitate efficient and amicable dispute and conflict resolution in their traditional areas.

 

Nana Ansua, who is also the Executive Secretary of the National Queen Mothers Platform, said the conference would be held annually to update their knowledge and skills in mediation.

 

It would also deliberate on issues of national importance and come out with suggestions to contribute to the efforts of the government for national development.

 

The programme, chaired by Madam Justina Owusu-Banahene, the Bono Regional Minister, was also addressed by Osagyefo Oseadeyo Agyeman Badu II, the Paramount Chief of Dormaa Traditional Area and President of the Bono Regional House of Chiefs and Dr Arne Wulff, the Resident Representative of the KAS, Ghana Office.

 

Source: Ghana News Agency

Incessant tidal waves in Anlo beach render residents homeless

Residents in the Anlobeach community of the Shama District have called on the government to build a sea defence wall to control the incessant tidal waves gradually eroding the community.

Currently, more than half of the 13,000 population are displaced and their houses submerged by the angry waves.

 

A visit to the community by the Shama District Chief Executive, Mr Ebenezer Dadzie, the Parliamentarian of the area and the Assembly Member after a recent wave attack showed hundreds of houses destroyed.

 

The Secretary to the Council of elders, Mr Noble King Dugbartey, whose 10 bedroom house, was destroyed by the sea said, “when we were children…our parents never allowed us to travel the over one-kilometre sea distance from our homes but now, the sea continues to chase us”.

 

Over the last four years, the waves had increased and even our school with only the primary block left had to be closed last week due to the flow in the frontage,” he said.

 

The action of the waves, he added, has left some dead while others were now perching with families upstream.

 

He, therefore, prayed for immediate action either through resettlement or a sea defence to save lives and properties.

 

Mr Samuel Borlu, the Assembly Member of the Anlobeach Electoral Area, recounted how the sea had washed the workshop, middle school, primary and KG blocks of the 1952 Methodist school.

 

“Our community is under constant siege by the sea… I believe we need to rescue these perishing properties to restore hope in our residents.”

 

The Assembly Member added, “My family had been here for 100 years now and it’s rather unfortunate the turn of events.”

 

The Assistant Headmaster of the Anlo Beach Methodist school, Mr Benard Fuga, noted how the doors of the school, which had developed cracks had to be shut for five days due to the inflow of sea water.

 

He said, “look at the remains of the tree here…what would have happened if the children were around… I have been here for 11 years and the situation is worsening by the day.”

 

Meanwhile, the Member of Parliament for Shama and the District Chief Executive had pledged to resettle the community while a future hope of sea defence could be considered.

 

Mr Erikson Abakah, the MP, said there would be a compulsory acquisition of land and compensation paid where necessary for the relocation to begin.

 

The DCE added, “we are engaging with the opinion leaders to help us kick start the appropriate intervention.”

 

Source: Ghana News Agency

Catholic Bishops rally support for LGBTQ+ Bill

The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) has reaffirmed its unflinching support for the Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill and urged Ghanaians to support its passage into law.

It explained that the Bill seeks to nip in the bud the growing socio-moral canker of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual Plus (LGBTQIA ) in the country and protect its religious and traditional values.

The call was made in a communiqué issued by the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference at the end of its Annual Plenary Assembly held in Wa.

 

It was signed by the Most Rev. Philip Naameh, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Tamale and the President of the Ghana Bishops’ Conference and read by the Most Rev. Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle, the Archbishop of Cape Coast and Vice President of the GCBC, during a mass service at the St. Andrews Cathedral in Wa.

 

“The position of the Catholic Church on LGBTQIA has remained the same: that, such practices are against not only Christian Values but Muslim and Ghanaian Traditional values as well,” the communiqué said.

 

“During our interaction with the people of the Upper West Region, the Muslim position of LGBTQIA was reiterated by the Regional Chief Imam. Similarly, the Chiefs of Wa and Jirapa Traditional areas also expressed their support for the Bill,” it added.

 

On good governance, the communiqué appreciated the positive achievements chalked by successive governments in the areas of infrastructure development, improved access to quality health, education and essential utilities such as water and electricity.

 

“However, we and many other Ghanaians have observed that our numerous challenges persist,” it said.

 

The challenges include youth unemployment, bribery, corruption, greed, selfishness, lack of patriotism, poverty, deplorable roads, carnage on the roads, armed robbery, murder and other crimes as well as illegal mining.

The rest are weak and ineffective institutions of governance, abandoned and unfinished government projects, the culture of impunity, examination malpractices, violence, intimidation, attack on media men and women, human trafficking and abductions.

The communiqué pointed out that this worrying state of the nation called for some fundamental changes in the nation’s governance system with regard to strategic and well-structured development plans by all governments.

 

The communiqué further reminded and appealed to the government to revisit the various recommendations made by the Prof. Fiadjoe Constitutional Review Commission, especially on the need for a national development plan.

 

It said based on observations, the Commission recommended that the constitution should be amended to include an entrenched position for the development of a national development plan for Ghana.

 

Again, it recommended that the national development plan should be comprehensive, long-term, strategic, multi-year and binding and enforceable at the instance of any person or institution.

 

The communiqué, therefore, noted that the Bishops were of a strong conviction that the implementation of these and other recommendations will be in the right direction.

 

 

Source: Ghana News Agency

‘Tidal waves attack is a national disaster, don’t politicise it’

He appealed to residents of Keta and adjoining communities to desist from winning sand along the shore, which created a channel for the sea to attack and erode the beach.

 

More than 3,000 people were reportedly displaced and 500 houses destroyed by the waves.

 

The affected people are in need of food, clothes, medicines and shelter to cope with the tragic incident.

 

Communities affected include Abutiakope, Kedzikope and Dzelukope, Dzita, Anloga, Agbledomi, Atiteti, Agokedzi, Serakope Fuveme, leaving residents homeless with nothing to salvage.

 

Some roads within the communities have become impassable and nearly cut from each other.

 

Mr Afenyo-Markin, at a press conference by the Majority Caucus in Parliament on the recent tidal waves, said the major intervention; the sea defence project, started during former President John Agyekum Kufuor’s era; and a new initiative during former President John Mahama’s Administration, in 2015 was completed in 2019.

 

He said the activities of sand-winners were making the people in the area more vulnerable and would cost the nation huge sums of money in terms of recovery and settlement.

 

“I would plead. Much as Government is making efforts to provide relief, the relief items are themselves not the solution…They are temporary relief after the whole thing has occurred,” he added.

 

The Minority Caucus in Parliament, in a reaction, described the statement by Mr Afenyo-Markin as “unfortunate and a lack of sympathy to address the crisis and suffering of the people.”

 

Mr Emmanuel Armah Kofi-Buah, the Ranking Member on the Trade and Industry Committee, addressing the media, said about 500 houses were destroyed by the flooding due to the tidal waves.

 

He said the issues of sand wining was a problem not only in the Volta Region but across the country.

 

However, the issues went beyond sand winning, hence the need to tackle the immediate crisis in Ketu South.

 

“Just imagine waking one morning and everything you worked for your whole life is gone and the government, which has to be responsive and come to your aid, does not show up. And the answer from NADMO is that there is no resources…that is the issue,” Mr Kofi-Buah said.

 

He called on government to resource NADMO to enhance its emergency preparedness to effectively handle disaster situations in the country.

 

Source: Ghana News Agency

Peace is an essential commodity – NCCE

Peace is an essential commodity that Ghanaians must continue to uphold, Mrs Faustina Koranteng, the Ahanta West Municipal Director of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), has said.

She said advancing the gains in democracy and harnessing resources for development and growth all hinged on peace.

 

Mrs Koranteng was speaking during an Inter Party Dialogue Committee (IPDC) meeting for political parties and other stakeholders in Ahanta West, which was funded by the European Union, to ensure peaceful coexistence.

 

The meeting began with the screening of a short film on the Consequences of Violent Extremism, aimed at creating a platform for dialogue among participants on effective ways of identifying early warning signals of extremist activities.

 

Mrs Koranteng said the Commission, in collaboration with National Security, with support from the EU, was undertaking the Dialogue especially in the five regions of northern Ghana and other border regions, hotspot communities and some coastal areas.

 

It would help for community surveillance and provide measures to counter radicalisation of the youth, fight against transnational organised crimes, identify early warning signals of extremist violence, and promote respect for human rights and the rule of law.

 

Mr Justice Yaw Ennin, the Western Regional Director of the NCCE, said National Security technique detection had proved that Ghana was prone to violent threat in relation to unemployment, chieftaincy, ethnic/religious conflict, inter-religious conflict, high cost of living, and political vigilantism.

 

Some porous borders in the country constituted a major threat to violent extremism, he said.

 

The Municipal Police Commander, DSP Valentine Akposu, urged participants to be mindful that Ghana was not immune to violence happenings, hence the need to educate their people on peaceful coexistence and inclusive participation in national development.

 

The participants were taken through the Vigilante and Related Offences Act 2019 (Act 999), the Public Order Act, 1994 (Act 491) and the Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR) mechanism.

 

Pastor Harold Adu-Boateng, Church of Pentecost, Vice Chairman of the Inter Party Dialogue Committee, called for the formation of watchdog committees to help check crime.

 

Participants included representatives of political parties, civil society organisations, security agencies, the Electoral Commission, CHRAJ, Faith Based Organisations, PWDs, and Women’s groups.

 

Source: Ghana News Agency

Police stabilising head-teacher of drowned pupils before prosecution

The Northern Regional Police Command says it is taking measures to stabilise the traumatised Head-teacher of the St Charles Lwanga Junior High School, Mr Emmanuel Chenjah, before prosecution.

The Head-teacher had directed some 31 pupils of his School, in the Saboba District of the Northern Region, to work on his rice farm, of which eight got drowned upon their return, when one of the two canoes they were traveling on capsized in the Oti River on Friday.

 

Superintendent of Police, Mr Baba Ananga, the Northern Regional Police Crime Officer, who disclosed this to the Ghana News Agency, said Mr Chenjah’s condition could not immediately allow for charges to be preferred against him until he was stable to face prosecution.

 

Even though the Crime Officer could not immediately state charges likely to be preferred against the suspect, he was optimistic that the suspect would assist to bring justice to the children and their families.

 

Mr Ananga said the eight bodies had been deposited at the Assemblies of God District Hospital in Saboba, pending autopsy.

 

Source: Ghana News Agency