CSOs urged to intensify awareness on human right laws

Accra, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have been urged to intensify their awareness creation on laws bordering on human rights to bridge the gap between the laws and their implementation.

Ms Margo Waterval a United Nations Human Rights Committee member, made the call at a follow-up meeting with Ghanaian CSOs to the UN Human Rights Committee’s recommendations in Ghana.

She said CSOs needed to play a key role in sensitising the people on new laws enacted because only being aware of negative effects of things that could bring change in society.

She said the UN Human Rights Committee was expecting to receive report from the Government and the CSOs on its three main recommendations next month.

The Committee’s recommendations are on non-discrimination and harmful traditional practices, persons with disabilities and psychiatric treatment, and conditions of detention and violence among inmates.

It was organised by the Human Right Advocacy Centre and the Centre for Civil and Political Rights for the CSOs to present their Action Plan on the follow-up on the recommendations.

Ms Waterval said the Committee considered the initial reports of Ghana at its 3274th and 3275th meetings in June 2016 and had adopted the present concluding observation a month later at its 3293rd meeting.

She said the Committee was concerned about the persistence of certain harmful practices, notwithstanding their prohibition by law.

Such harmful practices include female genital mutilation, ritual servitude (trokosi), forced early marriage and confinement in witch camps and polygamy.

The Committee therefore urged the State party to strengthen its awareness raising and education programmes in this regard, especially in communities where the practices remained widespread.

State party should further enhance its efforts to prevent and eradicate harmful traditional practices; proactively investigate cases of traditional harmful practices and ensure that victims have access to effective remedies and adequate protection, rehabilitation and reintegration mechanisms.

The Committee also recommended that the party should ensure the implementation of the Mental Health Act, including through the adoption of legislative instruments for its implementation and the recruitment of qualified mental health professionals.

It should also ensure registration, regulation and control of prayer camps, with a view to preventing ill-treatment, including inhumane practices involving shackling and mandatory fasting, ensure that persons with disabilities or their legal representatives are able to exercise the right to effective remedy against violations of their rights. Ms Andrea Meraz, Programme Manager of Centre for Civil and Political Rights, said the Committee also recommended that State party should take measures to improve the conditions and treatment of persons held in custody.

It should also take steps to address the problem of prison overcrowding, including introducing a genuine policy on the use of non-custodial penalties in accordance with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

She said the State party should also take the necessary steps to separate prisoners by age, sex and custodial status.

The State party should also ensure that inmates are not given any disciplinary authority over other inmates, among others.

Ms Meraz said they were in the country to ascertain what the State of Ghana did to implement the recommendations, the challenges and the role of CSOs to ensure that people know about the laws through awareness creation.

Participants at the meeting called for media collaboration in their education efforts.

Source: Ghana News Agency