Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1985

Ghana is governed by the Provisional National Defense Council
(PNDC) under the Chairmanship of Flight Lieutenant Jerry
Rawlings, who seized power from the previous elected
Government on December 31, 1981. Under the Establishment
Proclamation issued January 11, 1982, the Council exercises
"all powers of government." In practice, government policy is
developed by Chairman Rawlings assisted by a number of close
advisers, both inside and outside government. The Council was
recently expanded to 10 members and now includes, aside from
the chairman (the lone survivor of the 7 original members), 2
recently added military officers and 7 civilians (including 2
women and 1 ex-military) . A Cabinet composed of the
secretaries (ministers) of various departments conducts the
day-to-day activity of the Government. A network of
Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) is designed
as a channel to transmit government policies to the citizen
and citizen concerns to the Government.
Despite a period of violence and confrontation in 1982, the
Government has been generally successful in its efforts to
defend itself against violent overthrow without adopting
draconian controls over the population. Nevertheless,
outspoken criticism of the Government has occasionally
resulted in detention of the critic, creating an atmosphere
conducive to self-censorship. Most coup attempts have come
primarily from members and former members of the armed
forces. At least two dissident incidents were reported in
1984 .
In 1983, the Government adopted an exceptionally austere
economic recovery program in an effort to redress a quarter
century of economic mismanagement and political instability,
which caused Ghana to decline from one of Africa's most
promising states to a condition of economic collapse and
poverty. Remedial measures have included a more than 1,000
percent devaluation, severe structural readjustments, and an
emphasis on spending for rural rather than urban projects.
Conducted in concert with the International Monetary Fund, the
3-year recovery program has begun to have a positive effect
and has attracted support from foreign donors, including the
United States and international financial institutions. The
economic growth rate is expected to make a third consecutive
positive showing in 1985. Pre-1983 triple digit inflation has
been reduced to under 20 percent.
On the whole, some positive trends in human rights, which were
first identified in the second half of 1983, continued during
1985. However, there are no elections to national governing
bodies and no legal means by which citizens can freely and
peacefully change their laws, officials, or form of
government. The most noticeable improvement in human rights
has been the restoration of civil order after an initial 18
months of revolutionary excess in 1982 and 1983. Discipline
has been restored in the uniformed services and the police, as
well as among military political cadres. The courts have been
allowed to continue to operate relatively free of executive
interference. The principal impediment to the free exercise
of human rights remains the absence of constitutionally
sanctioned protection of those rights. The potential for
arbitrary deprivation of liberty is demonstrated by continuing
instances of incarceration without formal charges. A system
of public tribunals, which parallels the regular courts.
failed to enforce procedural safeguards adequate enough to
constitute acceptable due process. Although the Government is
studying means of restoring a democratic system, there is
still no guarantee of elections nor are there any current
plans to provide for a relaxation of government control of the
main national newspapers and broadcast news.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom from:
a. Political Killing
No killing was reported in which there was evidence of
political motivation or governmental instigation.
b. Disappearance
No disappearance traceable to government action or to
nongovernmental or opposition forces was reported in 1985, for
the second successive year.
c. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or
Twice during 1985, the Government acknowledged that some
members of the armed forces beat persons detained by them. In
one of the cases the victim later died, apparently of injuries
sustained while in custody. In neither case was anyone
reported to have been disciplined. In another case, however,
a soldier was convicted and later executed for crimes
committed against civilians. No other allegations of torture
or cruel treatment were reported in 1985. During the year,
six people were executed upon conviction by tribunals of
offenses that were essentially of an economic, "white collar",
anticorruption nature. The Government has continued to
improve prison conditions and alleviate crowding. Service
organizations and family members are permitted to provide for
prisoners, and there are regular church services.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Ghanaian security forces occasionally take persons into
custody, sometimes late at night, secretly, with or without a
warrant, and hold them incommunicado for months. Some of
those so detained are said by government officials to have
committed crimes, although the only "offense" of which they
are known to be "guilty" is the expression of views critical
of or different from those of the Government. When the Ghana
Bar Association has attempted to free some of these persons
through writs of habeas corpus, the PNDC has either stood
aside and permitted their release or has interposed ex post
facto preventive custody orders barring their release and
citing national security considerations as justification.
Except for these persons, detentions are normally performed
according to due process of law and subject to a functioning
bail system. The criminal code requires that an arrested
person be brought before a court within 48 hours. Some writs
of habeas corpus continued to be granted in 1985, but habeas
corpus is limited by a 1984 law which prevents any court from
inquiring into the grounds for the detention of any Ghanaian
detained under PNDC Law 2 (the law setting up a national
investigation committee, and giving that committee power to
investigate virtually any allegation referred to it by the
Although the Government does not announce detentions or
releases, it appears that the number of prisoners in detention
without due process fluctuated in 1985. A March amnesty of
202 prisoners included 2 former ministers; and on January 9,
1986, the last former minister being detained was released on
bail. In the latter half of 1985, at least 5, and perhaps as
many as 20, persons were arbitrarily detained, though 7 of
these detainees were released in late November. Among the
detainees were at least two who had been released in 1984,
after a previous period of detention. Including some of those
just incarcerated, a list of uncharged detainees published in
a weekly newspaper in August contained 17 names. However, a
government official claimed, also in August, that there were
no political prisoners since those in detention were guilty of
crimes (although they had not yet been tried). Amnesty
International has adopted as a "prisoner of conscience" a
Ghanaian who was sentenced by a public tribunal to 16 years in
prison for complicity in a November 1982 coup attempt.
Ghana prohibits forced labor, except in terms of military
draft and labor following court conviction.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Traditional legal safeguards remain available in the
established court system, which includes High Courts, Appeals
Courts, and a Supreme Court headed by a Chief Justice. In
1982, the Government also established a new set of judicial
bodies which parallels the older court system. These organs
include the Office of Revenue Commissioners, the National
Investigations Committee, the Special Military Tribunal, and
the Public Tribunals Board, as well as Public Tribunals, which
exist at the national and regional levels and are planned for
districts and communities. In 1985, a National Appeals
Tribunal came into existence to hear appeals from the Public
Tribunals. The Government's announced purpose in establishing
the tribunals was to provide justice more quickly to more
people with less corruption. Critics contend that the
tribunal system still depends largely on judges with little or
no legal experience, that it shortcuts legal safeguards in an
effort to speed proceedings, and that it creates opportunities
for corruption because of ambiguities concerning the
jurisdictions of the tribunals and that of the courts. In
1985, the Government also approved the creation of a legal aid
program, but it is still in the preimplementation stage.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
Cor r espondence
A person in Ghana is, for the most part, free of
interference by the State in his or her private conduct. For
example, membership in organizations such as the Committees
for the Defense of the Revolution is voluntary. The
monitoring of telephones and mail occurs rarely, if at all.
Forced entry into homes has been reported in connection with
security investigations. Informers exist but informer
systems, so far as is known, do not. There is no forced
resettlement of populations, no interference with the right to
marry or to have children, and no effort to prevent parents
from teaching their children religious practices, either at
home or by public means.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Rights, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The freedoms of speech and the press guaranteed by the 1979
Constitution stand abrogated, but the PNDC chairman has
publicly encouraged people to speak out on community
concerns. The Government owns the radio and television
stations, as well as the two principal daily newspapers.
Several privately owned newspapers have been relatively bold
in their news coverage and editorial comment. Nevertheless,
in early 1985 one private weekly suspended publication for
several issues under government orders; the editor and the
publisher of another weekly were beaten for publishing an
erroneous story (although the Government subsequently
apologized); the publisher of another weekly was imprisoned in
July without charges and released in November; and the
Government has occasionally limited supplies of newsprint
available to the independent press. In December, the
Government banned publication of the Catholic Standard, a
church newspaper known for its independent stand on human
rights and other issues. The press generally avoids criticism
of the revolution or of Chairman Rawlings and focuses instead
on uncovering instances of waste, fraud, and mismanagement,
even when they involve relatively high-level officials.
Academic freedom tends to be respected. Private organizations
voice occasional dissent from official policies.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Individuals are generally free to join together formally or
informally to promote nonviolent causes, but restrictions
remain on association for the purpose of protesting government
policies. Political meetings are banned. Permits are
required for public meetings but are routinely given except
when the meeting has an overtly political purpose.
In 1985, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) continued to be led
by officials freely elected in December 1983. The TUC is
associated with the International Labor Organization and the
Organization of African Trade Union Unity which has its
headquarters in Accra. The right to strike is recognized in
law and in practice in Ghana. Ghanaian trade unions freely
engage in collective bargaining with both private sector and
state-owned enterprises, though in the latter category there
is indication that the Government has recently used brief
detention and threats against union leaders to force agreement
on an issue involving a state-owned enterprise.
c. Freedom of Religion
There is no state favored religion and no restriction on the
exercise of religion or on contacts with others of the same
faith. Most Ghanaians, including senior government officials,
are practicing members of a religious group. Foreign
missionary groups operate freely throughout the country. In
1985, the PNDC chairman publicly criticized the leaders of one
of the major religious denominations for disciplining two
priests. His criticism has been echoed in sometimes virulent
attacks on the church in government-owned newspapers,
especially for alleged political misuse of the pulpit.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
People are free to move from one part of the country to
another without special permission. Since 1983, diplomats
have been required to give 48 hours notice before traveling
outside the greater Accra region. Roadblocks continue to
exist for the prevention of smuggling but are less obtrusive
than in 1984.
As members of the Economic Community of West African States,
Ghanaians are free to travel for up to 90 days in West
Africa. Ghanaians are generally free to exercise this right,
and nationals of other member states are free to travel to
Ghana. The major restraint on travel by Ghanaians is the lack
of foreign exchange. Ghanaians are also free to emigrate or
to be repatriated from other countries. If they are
considered a security threat, then special permission must be
obtained. In 1985, approximately 100,000 Ghanaians returned
home, having been expelled by Nigeria. Passports are prized,
and their issuance is frequently long delayed.
In August 1985, the Government deported four expatriates,
three of whom had either lived in Ghana many years or had
Ghanaian spouses and children. None of the four was given a
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
The PNDC under Chairman Rawlings exercises total executive,
legislative, judicial, and administrative power in Ghana (PNDC
Law 42). There are no elections to governing organs and no
current procedure by which citizens can freely and peacefully
change their laws, officials, or form of government. However,
Chairman Rawlings' appointments to the PNDC continue to
reflect a variety of views. A panel to design new democratic
structures to replace Ghana's existing provisional system is
currently at work, but has yet to publish any of its
deliberations or a timetable. It has, however, published some
papers presented to it by various experts. Efforts to give
substance to the revolutionary slogan, "power to the people,"
include elections for leadership positions at the local level
to the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) .
These efforts are supposed to culminate in July 1986 with a
national CDR conference. Thus far, indications suggest that
these CDR elections have been relatively free and open. No
claim is made by the Ghana Government, however, that these
Committees are meant to take the place of either elected local
or national governing bodies.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
The Government continued to permit international organizations
to send representatives to Ghana to inquire into the human
rights situation. A representative of the International
evertheless, various independent groups and organizations
have worked for and sometimes succeeded in gaining the release
of some persons from custody. Official human rights matters
are handled by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, although
inquiries may be answered at various levels, including cabinet
secretaries. Amnesty International in its 1985 Report was
concerned about the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience
and the detention without trial of people held on political
grounds. It noted that a number of people, apparently
suspected of trying to overthrow the Government in 1984, were
reportedly executed by the security forces without trial.
Freedom House rated Ghana "not free."
Ghana is a developing country with a population of 12.8
million. The population growth rate is 3.1 percent (1985).
The per capita gross national product was estimated at $310 in
1983. Ghana has a mixed economy. The Government owns
enterprises in the agricultural, mining, and manufacturing
sectors; most productive agricultural enterprises, including
those in the key cocoa sector, are owned by small farmers.
The Government maintains a monopoly over the purchase and
export of cocoa, coffee, shea nuts, and cotton. The private
trading sector is also substantial, but the Government has
favored the state-owned companies in national procurement and
Ghana's austere economic recovery program has met its targets
and is supported by the International Monetary Fund, the World
Bank, and primary Western donors, including the U.S. . The
recovery program features a devaluation of Ghana's currency by
over 1,000 percent; establishment of producer and export
incentives, including increased prices to cocoa and coffee
farmers; the gradual elimination of subsidies on utilities and
petroleum products; budgetary stringency; and an emphasis upon
improving the standard of living in rural areas. The recovery
program is showing signs of success. Real gross domestic
product, measured in local currency, grew at an estimated 0.7
percent rate in 1983, 7.6 percent in 1984, and an estimated 5
percent in 1985. Triple digit inflation fell to approximately
40 percent in 1984 and to an estimated 20 percent in 1985.
The Government's work with the international community in
1983-84 to overcome a major drought and food crisis succeeded
so well that in 1985 Ghana was able to export surplus maize to
Burkina Faso and Mali.
Life expectancy at birth is 58.9 years, and the infant
mortality rate in 1985 was estimated at 97 per 1,000 live
births. In 1980, 47 percent of the population had access to
safe drinking water (72 percent of the urban population). A
renewed emphasis is now being placed on creating and improving
wells in rural areas, particulary in the northern regions. In
1970, the adult literacy rate was estimated to be 30.2
percent, with the male rate at 43.1 and the female at 18.4
percent. The difference can be partly attributed to a
traditional perference for educating male over female
children. Current literacy rates are not available, but 1982
primary school enrollment ratios indicated improvement in
access to education, with a primary school enrollment ratio of
76 percent, (85 percent for boys and 66 percent for girls).
Working conditions in Ghana are governed by labor legislation
which specifically prohibits forced labor, sets a minimum age
for the employment of minors (15), and prohibits night work
and certain types of hazardous employment for those under 18
years of age. Government directives also establish a minimum
wage and, through both directives and union contracts, the
normal hours of work are defined in terms of a 40 hour week.
Labor legislation also provides for labor inspectors and gives
them the power to order the alteration or closing of any work
site "to avert any threat to the health or safety of the
workers . "
Women's rights in business, the civil service, and the home
have long been well established and respected. Two women are
among the 10 members of the ruling PNDC. There is one female
cabinet member and at least six women are in subcabinet
positions. Although women in urban centers and those who have
entered modern society encounter little bias in most
endeavors, role pressures do exist. Women in the rural
agricultural sector remain subject to the constraints
associated with traditional male-dominant mores, in spite of
efforts by the Government and more enlightened elements in the
society to curtail such practices. In the past year, the
Government has promulgated four laws which will overturn many
of the customary traditional and colonial laws which
discriminate against women. The four laws cover head of
family accountability, intestate succession, customary divorce
registrations, and the administration of estates.