Human Rights Advocacy
2005 Gambia Killings
One of CHRI Africa’s biggest feats has been its involvement and investigation into the case of the extra-judicial disappearances and killings of approximately 50 Africans that took place in the Gambia in 2005. Forty Ghanaians, ten Nigerians, two Senegalese, one Togolese and one Ivorian were attempting to travel to Europe when the Gambian naval authorities intercepted them. They were arrested and accused of plotting a coup against the government. They were detained without being charged at naval headquarters in Banjul and subsequently taken to a killing site in the farms of Siffoe in Gambia’s Western Division. CHRI quickly become involved and began fact finding mission to the towns of Bekerum and Kumasi to meet with the victim’s families residing there in order to gain more information pertaining to the victims, their identity and family relations and to find out what actions the relatives had taken to ascertain the whereabouts of their missing and or dead relatives. CHRI then teamed up with Legal Aid to establish the Gambia task force in order to raise public awareness and promote global sensitization on the inhuman activities occurring in the Gambia sanctioned by the government. CHRI has raised this issue at various national and international forums, most recently at the Commonwealth Human Rights People’s Forum that took place in Kampala, Uganda. CHRI also organized a ceremonial vigil for the victims during the 9th African Union Summit in Accra in 2007. Many of the victim’s families have still not received compensation for the actions that took place 5 years ago and although there is substantial evidence against the perpetrators, they have still not been brought to justice. CHRI is continually working with human rights defenders across the continent and abroad including the International Court of Justice, the United Nations Human Rights Council, ECOWAS Court and the Commonwealth Secretariat who have pledged their assistance in furthering the course of justice for the victims and their families.
Disability Rights and Mental Health
CHRI Africa has also undertaken research on the situation of disability rights and access to mental health care in Ghana. The Ghanaian government in officially responsible for providing mental health care to its citizens, however it has failed in many aspects, mainly the availability of mental health care facilities throughout Ghana. There are three psychiatric hospitals in Ghana: Accra, Ankaful and Pantang. Additionally, five regional hospitals have small psychiatric wings: Kumasi, Ho, Sunyani and Kofuridua. Thus, mental health care is extremely limited in the North of Ghana. Furthermore, there are only psychiatric nurses in 65 out of 130 districts in Ghana, leaving a significant percentage of the population without access to mental health care. The lack of appropriate mental health care has partially contributed to the emergence of prayer camps in Ghana where mentally ill patients are often sent to receive care from traditional healers. During one of CHRI’s fact finding missions, they found that patients at these facilities were not receiving any medical care and were having their rights abused to point of being chained up and starved of food and water. CHRI has since become involved in the promotion of the Mental Health Bill, which has not yet been made law. CHRI’s research and advocacy project seeks to reduce incidence of human rights violations in prayer camps, encourage referrals of mental health patients from prayer camps to psychiatric hospitals, advocate for the regularization of mental healthcare services provided by prayer camps and to increase awareness and public understanding about mental health issues to reduce stigmatization.
The rights of persons with disability within the Ghanaian society are often disregarded and marginalized in terms of political inclusion even though the Constitution guarantees their fundamental human rights. In general, Ghanaians with disabilities face under funded and segregated education, chronic unemployment and inadequate access to public facilities. They also face discrimination in unemployment, housing, transport and health facilities. Therefore, CHRI has begun to promote awareness of the Persons with Disability Act, which was passed by Parliament in 2006. In order to make the 60-section bill more reader friendly, CHRI wrote and published 3 simplified versions of the law; adult, children and Braille versions.
CHRI has also dealt with the ongoing problem of forced evictions throughout Ghana. Local government generally carries out these evictions with little regard to human rights standards. CHRI has investigated forced evictions in the neighborhoods of Sodom and Gomorrah, Kumasi; Mallam, Accra; Dambai, Volta and Glefe, Accra. CHRI’s main concern about the evictions that took place is the manner in which the evictions were carried out by local government authorities, particularly the use of excessive force during the ejection of evictees from their homes. Additionally, CHRI has contacted the Minister of Local Government to issue adequate compensation and alternative accommodation to the evictees as well as ensuring that proper notice is given to potential evictees before said evictions take place in the future.
In 2007, CHRI launched a campaign of public awareness in regards to child abuse. This was done by organizing workshops throughout Ghana to educate people about the rights of children. Workshops took place in Bortianor, Wusuta and Nkwanta. These workshops targeted school children and their parents and touched on subjects relation to child abuse such as child trafficking, incest, rape and defilement and harmful traditional and cultural practices.