The Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) yesterday held stakeholder engagement to deliberate on key aspects of the 2021 CHRAJ bill that needed to be amended.
The areas to be amended included sections 11A to 11E, which cut across “Designation as National Preventive Mechanism (NPM); Function of NPM; Powers of Authorised Persons; Visit by the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture; and Offences and Penalties.
Section 27 subsection 2,which is on Interpretation/ Definitions, is also to be amended.
The one-day workshop held in Accra sought to provide solutions to legal frameworks surrounding the formulation of the NPM as a division of the CHRAJ.
The NPM would be responsible for the prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments or punishments meted to persons in detention centres.
The Commissioner of CHRAJ, Joseph Whittal, said the amendment of the law would empower the CHRAJ to visit all detention centres where the rights of detainees had been or were being infringed upon.
He said such visit would allow officers from the NPM to examine the conditions detainees were kept in and the affected institutions appropriately sanctioned.
He said all recommendations from the stakeholder engagements would be sent to the Attorney-General for considerations and later presented to Parliament for further deliberations to effect the amendments permitting CHRAJ to become the legal NPM of Ghana.
He explained thatsince the creation of CHRAJ in 1994, the Commission had used its discretionary powers to visit detention centres to make reports and that was not backed by law, hence the need for the amendment in order to empower CHRAJ perform its role without restriction.
The Deputy Commissioner of CHRAJ, Mrs Mercy Larbi, in her presentation, said the NPM division, when created, would investigate any complaint made by the detainee and collaborate with any person or body in the discharge of its functions under the Act.
She said “the division shall consist of the Commissioner or a representative not below the rank of Deputy Commissioner, Deputy Chairperson not below the position of a Director, and three other members appointed by the Commissioner.”
She explained that the three other members should have proven knowledge and experience in human rights, social science-related field and could be chosen from a faith-based organization.
She added that any expert with the relevant professional expertise, experience and knowledge could also be co-opted to assist the NPM to discharge its functions.
The Director General, Legal Services of the Ghana Armed Forces,Brigadier General Benjamin Amoah-Boakye, appealed to CHRAJ for “appropriate standard operation procedures modulesfor institutions with detention centres to serve as a guide in order to avoid victimization of detainees that would necessitate any report to CHRAJ”.
He said some of the instances of victimisation occurred when detainees granted private interviews with the outsiders like CHRAJ officials or the media in which the institutions believed the detainees had released some unauthorised information to the outsiders.
BY JESSEL LARTEY THERSON-COFIE& RHODA AMPONSAH