Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1988

Ghana is governed by the Provisional National Defense Council
(PNDC) under the chairmanship of Flight Lieutenant Jerry John
Rawlings, who seized power from an elected government on
December 31, 1981, and abolished the Constitution, which has
never been replaced. Under the Establishment Proclamation of
January 11, 1982, the PNDC 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 the Government. In addition to
Chairman Rawlings, the PNDC consists of eight members, of whom
two are serving military officers and six are civilians. The
executive consists of ministries headed by secretaries, most
of whom are subordinate to a PNDC member responsible for that
particular area of government. There is a quasi-political
organization in the countrywide network of Committees for the
Defense of the Revolution (CDR's), which are designed as a
channel to transmit government policies to the citizens.
There is no national legislature or lawmaking body. All
national, regional, and many district officials are appointed
by the PNDC. In December the Government held district-level
elections for 56 newly created district assemblies; elections
for the remaining 54 district assemblies were scheduled for
early 1989.
The several security organizations which exist in Ghana report
to various departments of government, but all come under the
control of the PNDC. Most security cases of a political
nature are handled by the Bureau of National Investigation
(BNI), which reports to the PNDC member responsible for
security issues.
Starting in 1983, the Government adopted an Economic Recovery
Program (ERP) to redress a quarter century of economic
mismanagement and political instability which caused Ghana to
decline from one of Africa's most promising economies to near
collapse. Conducted in concert with the International
Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and a consultative group of
bilateral donors, the recovery program has had a positive
impact. The economy has grown annually since the inception of
the ERP, and inflation, which rose in 1987 to 39 percent, was
still far below the triple-digit figures of earlier years.
There continue to be significant human rights problems in
Ghana, with restrictions on basic rights such as freedom of
speech, press, and assembly, and legal due process. The
Rawlings regime has largely restored order following the
18-month period of revolutionary excess in 1982 and 1983.
However, there were two shooting incidents in May 1988
involving members of the Civil Defense Organization (CDO) , a
militia based at the regional and local level. The national
CDO head was replaced because of these incidents and new
measures were taken to bring the CDO's under control.
Similarly, in April there were major changes in the leadership
of the national CDR to instill discipline and strengthen
organization. There were no known coup plots in 1988.
Arbitrary arrest and detention were continuing problems, with
instances of incarceration without formal charges during
investigations sometimes lasting more than a year.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
      a. Political Killing
There were no reports of politically motivated killings.
      b. Disappearance
No politically motivated disappearances were reported in 1988.
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
There have been occasional credible allegations of torture and
beatings in recent years. Consideration was given to restoring
corporal punishment in 1988 for convicted petty offenders,
e.g., pickpockets, as punishment in lieu of a prison sentence;
however, no law was enacted to this effect. Prisons in Ghana
are antiquated, and conditions are harsh. In the last 18
months, one American citizen died of a heart attack and another
of malaria while being held in the Ghanaian prison system. A
third American stated that while in prison in 1988 he had been
physically mistreated and threatened with a pistol.
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Ghanaian security forces occasionally take persons into
custody, with or without a warrant, and hold them
incommunicado for extended periods of time. The number of
such cases is not known, but the threat of such treatment
serves as a deterrent to activities deemed unacceptable to the
State. PNDC Law 4 (Preventive Custody Law of 1982) provides
for indefinite detention without trial if the PNDC determines
it is in the interest of national security.
In routine criminal cases, arrests generally conform to the
legal procedures set forth in the criminal code. This code
requires that an arrested person be brought before a court
within 48 hours to be charged. However, the court can refuse
to release a detainee on bail and instead "remand" him without
charges for an indefinite period of time, subject to weekly
review as a case is investigated. Habeas corpus is limited by
a 1984 law which prevents any court from inquiring into the
grounds for the detention of any Ghanaian under PND'" Law 2
(which set up the National Investigation Committee and gave
the Committee the power to investigate virtually any
allegation referred to it by the PNDC).
Four persons arrested in 1987 for their activities in leftist
organizations--the New Democratic Movement (NDM) or the Kwame
Nkrumah Revolutionary Guards (KNRG) —remained under detention
without charge at year's end. They are K. Adu-Amankwah, head
of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) political department, and A.
Akoto-Ampaw, former Secretary G-neral of the All-African
Students Union, arrested May 18, 1987, for alleged seditious
activities; and Kwame Karikari, University o; Chana lecturer,
and K. "Orsino" Aryeetey, CDR activist, both arrested in mid-
July 1987 under PNDC Law 4 (on preventive custody) . Others
similarly arrested without charges in 1987 but released
between December 1987 and May 1988 were Ralph Kugbo, John
Ndebugre, Kwesi Pratt, Geoffrey Kumfo, and Yao Graham.
In 1988 Amnesty International appealed for the release of the
four men still in custody, plus some of those released earlier
in the year. The PNDC has denied appeals from various
organizations including the TUC, the National Union of Ghanaian
Students (NUGS) , and an informal group of university faculty
members, citing national security considerations as
In recent years, a number of American citizens have been
arrested and held without charge for lengthy periods without
the U.S. Embassy being notified or provided access as
stipulated in international conventions and a bilateral
treaty. The Department of State issued a travel advisory in
August 1988 warning American visitors of continuing problems
with Ghanaian authorities over notification and access and
advising them of their rights under international law.
The Government does not practice forced exile. In 1988 the
Government continued quietly to encourage Ghanaian exiles with
valuable skills to return home, offering them the opportunity
to return with amnesty. A limited number of officials of the
former government who fled Ghana in the early years of the
revolution have returned and resumed careers outside of
politics, apparently without difficulties. Others have
remained abroad, particularly in the United Kingdom and other
parts of Europe, in order to conduct active opposition to the
PNDC or out of fear of political persecution.
With regard to forced or compulsory labor, see Section 6.c.
      e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
There are two court systems in Ghana. In the regular
"prerevolutionary" court system, traditional legal safeguards
are based on British legal practice. Trials are public, and
defendants have a right to be present, to be represented by an
attorney, and to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses.
This system includes high courts, appeal courts, and a
supreme court headed by a chief justice. Questions exist,
however, about the independence of the regular courts. In
April 1986, the PNDC summarily dismissed 16 judges, alleging
that they were guilty of malfeasance. By this action, the
PNDC put judges in the regular courts on notice that they
serve at its sufferance. The independent Ghana Bar
Association has urged the reestablishment of a judicial
council to protect judges from arbitrary dismissal and
preserve judicial independence.
A separate public tribunals system was set up by the PNDC in
1982 to bypass the regular court system and speed up the
judicial process by deemphasizing legal "technicalities."
This system includes the Office of Revenue Commissioners, the
National Investigations Committee, the Special Military
Tribunal, and the Public Tribunals Board, as well as the
public tribunals themselves, which operate at the national and
regional levels. Plans are under discussion to extend the
public tribunal system to the district level as well. Most
sensitive political cases and those involving security issues
and capital punishment are heard by public tribunals. No
appeals were permitted until 1985, when a National Appeals
Tribunal was created.
The public tribunals depend largely on judges with little or
no legal experience, and they shortcut legal safeguards and
due process to provide "rough and ready" justice. Presiding
judges are more often laymen than lawyers; there are no
published guidelines concerning the admissibility of evidence;
and conviction is by majority vote of the panel trying a
case. Critics also contend that meaningful appeals are
impossible because no adequate record is kept of initial
hearings before tribunals. Judges on the appeals panel are
drawn from the same pool of "lay judges" who hear initial
cases. The members of the Ghana Bar Association, citing such
shortcomings, have elected not to practice before the public
tribunals. This means that in practice defendants may appear
before the public tribunals with inadequate or no legal
representation. In 1985 the Government approved the creation
of a legal aid program, but it has been only marginally
There are no reliable estimates of the number of political
detainees and political prisoners in Ghana. There has been at
least one published report, whose authority is uncertain, that
there are 200 political prisoners in Ghana. The Government
claims the actual number of political prisoners is small.
      f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Citizens not engaged in activity objectionable to the
Government are generally free from interference with regard to
private conduct, although some critics characterize the local
CDR ' s as "neighborhood watch committees." Monitoring of
telephones and mail is presumed to occur, and forced entry
into homes has been reported in connection with security
investigations. The State supports family planning, but there
is no interference with the right to marry or have children as
one chooses.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, including:
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Ghana has no constitution, and there are no guarantees of the
freedoms of speech and the press. The PNDC Chairman has
frequently encouraged people to speak out on local community
concerns, though not on government policy. However, informers
are said to exist, and some Ghanaians hesitate to speak frankly
at public gatherings or attend certain functions.
The Government owns the radio and television stations and the
two principal daily newspapers. Reporting in government-owned
media accentuates positive aspects of the revolution, but also
covers selected instances of corruption and mismanagement in
government agencies and state-owned enterprises. In general,
media criticism of the revolution or of Chairman Rawlings and
PNDC members, as well as of foreign and domestic policies, is
not tolerated. Journalists are subject to discipline or
dismissal by the Government for running articles deemed
unacceptable, and the editor of the government-owned weekly
The Mirror was dismissed in August.
One or two of the few remaining privately owned newspapers
have tried to be relatively bold in reporting selected
issues. The Kumasi-based Pioneer, for example, has at times
taken provocative positions, including a series of editorials
and articles criticizing Ghana's foreign policy and the
Economic Recovery Program (ERP) and calling for the
resignation of the Finance Secretary. However, several
privately owned newspapers have closed down in recent years.
and in December 1985 the Government banned publication of the
Catholic Standard; it remained banned in 1988. A few foreign
periodicals such as West Africa, Time, and Newsweek are sold
freely in Accra and other major cities, and even issues
critical of Ghana are allowed to circulate. Western
journalists are now routinely accorded visas and press
credentials as opposed to the practice of a few years ago.
Academic freedom tends to be respected within the confines of
the campus. The National Union of Ghanaian Students, one of
the more vocal critics of the PNDC, is tolerated and allowed
to organize and hold meetings. Several leftwing political
organizations, including the June Fourth Movement and the New
Democratic Movement (NDM) , were founded by faculty and
students at the University of Ghana. The NDM is viewed with
particularly deep suspicion by the PNDC. Just prior to
examinations in May, university students demonstrated over
campus issues and forced the closing of all three universities.
The Government's reaction was notably mild, with no police or
military action and no public threats of expulsion or
retaliation against the ringleaders. Universities remained
closed in December, and no official announcement was made as
to when they might reopen.
Critics have charged, and the PNDC Chairman has publicly
admitted, that fear of government reaction has led to the
creation of a "culture of silence" in Ghana. When Professor
Adu Boahen, speaking in February on the "culture of silence"
at the annual Danquah Lecture Series, openly criticized
government policies and officials, he was subjected to
blistering attacks in the media (while his views went
unreported) and was the reported target of military
harassment. On a different plane, the Government closed all
video houses in September 1988 because of the allegedly
corrupting effects on the morals of youth of many of the
videotapes shown, and it created a censorship board to pass
judgment on the content of videotapes.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Assocation
There are no constitutional guarantees of freedom of assembly
and association, but individuals generally are free to join
together formally or informally to promote benevolent or
nonpolitical causes. Ghana has many private religious,
social, and cultural organizations which are allowed to
organize and gather with a minimum of legal or informal
restrictions. Permits are required for public meetings or
demonstrations, but these are routinely granted except when
they have an overtly political purpose.
Political parties are banned in Ghana, and meetings to
organize such parties are prohibited. The Government barred
persons with close ties to the old parties from running as
candidates for election to the district assemblies.
For a discussion of freedom of association as it applies to
labor unions, see Section 6. a.
      c. Freedom of Religion
There is no state-favored religion and no restriction on the
exercise of religion. Organized religious groups may establish
places of worship, train their clergy, and participate in
charitable activities. Ghanaians are predominantly Christian,
and many senior government officials are practicing members of
various Protestant sects or Roman Catholicism with no
particular advantages or disadvantages attached to membership.
The PNDC encourages religious communities to support its
economic and social policies. It has been sensitive to church
criticism of Ghana's human rights record, and in 1987 Chairman
Rawlings renewed the charge that worldwide church and Christian
organizations may be havens for foreign spy networks. Foreign
missionary groups operate throughout the country with a
minimum of formal restrictions, although some foreign
missionaries find obtaining visas is becoming more difficult.
Foreign evangelists have come under criticism. Religious
groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, which advocate refusal
to recognize Ghanaian symbols of authority, have been strongly
criticized by the Government. In addition, some local
congregations have been closed down by the Government because
of excesses deemed offensive "to the morals of the average
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Ghanaians and foreigners are free to move throughout Ghana
without special permission. Police checkpoints exist
countrywide, allegedly for the prevention of smuggling, but
are less obtrusive than in the 1982-84 period. Roadblocks and
car searches are still a normal part of nighttime travel in
As members of the Economic Community of West African States
(ECOWAS) , Ghanaians may travel without visas for up to 90 days
in member states. Ghanaians are generally free to exercise
this right, and nationals of other member states are free to
travel to Ghana. Ghanaians are also free to emigrate or to be
repatriated from other countries. If a person is considered a
security threat, special permission to travel outside Ghana
must be obtained.
There is no forced resettlement of populations. Unregistered
refugees from the Sahelian drought in neighboring countries
remain in Ghana, and efforts to settle these basically nomadic
peoples have had only limited success. The Government launched
"Operation Cowleg" in 1988, aimed at forcing alien herdsmen
across the border by a certain deadline or suffer confiscation
of their herds, which were blamed for damaging irrigation
channels and denuding the land. The operation was claimed to
be successful, although the problem may still persist. The
Government has not established policies to deal with the
roughly 150 refugees registered with the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees, but they do not constitute a
significant problem.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Chairman Rawlings and the PNDC exercise total executive,
legislative, judicial, and administrative power in Ghana.
There is no procedure by which citizens can freely and
peacefully change their laws, officials, or form of government.
The National Commission for Democracy (NCD) was established in
1984 to design new "democratic" structures which would
establish the legitimacy of the PNDC.
In December the first elections since 1979 were held in Ghana
to establish district assemblies in four regions. Elections
for district assemblies in the remaining six regions were
scheduled for January and February 1989. No plans have been
announced for regional or national elections. All national
and regional officials are appointed by the PNDC
Women are officially encouraged to play a greater role in the
political and social development of Ghana, and several women
hold prominent supporting positions in the PNDC.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government is sensitive to charges concerning its human
rights practices, which it stoutly defends. In September a
prominent government official attacked letter writers on human
rights cases in Ghana as well-intentioned but ill-informed and
singled out Amnesty International (AI) for specific criticism.
The PNDC is particularly critical of charges from human rights
groups in the West that it lacks a democratic structure,
arguing that Western-style democracy has repeatedly failed in
Ghana and that the current system involving "participatory
democracy" through CDR " s and other mass organizations has more
"grassroots" support and is more broadly democratic than
previous Ghanaian governments.
No foreign human rights organization has asked recently to
conduct any investigations in Ghana. There are no known
locally organized human rights groups currently operating in
Ghana, but several other organizations--most notably the Ghana
Bar Association—attempts to address human rights issues from
time to time.
The Government cooperates with the International Committee of
the Red Cross, and there is a chapter of AI in Ghana. In
September 1988, Ghana was host to a meeting of the
International Federation of Women Lawyers, which addressed
human rights in Ghana. However, as far as is known, no other
representatives of international human rights organizations
visited Ghana in 1988.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
Although ethnic differences are intentionally downplayed by
the Government, occasional charges are aired that the PNDC and
the political leadership are dominated by members of the Ewe
ethnic group. Chairman Rawlings and a number of his close
advisors are Ewe.
The Government has made a concerted effort to raise the status
of women in Ghana. In 1985 it promulgated four laws which
overturned many of the discriminatory customary, traditional,
and colonial laws; these concerned family accountability,
intestate succession, customary divorce registrations, and the
administration of estates. Women in urban centers and those
who have entered modern society encounter little apparent
bias, but role pressures persist. Women in the rural
agricultural sector remain subject to stronger constraints
associated with the traditional mores of male dominance.
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Section 6 Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
The PNDC has not interfered with the right of workers to
associate in labor unions. Trade unions in Ghana and their
activities are still governed by the Industrial Relations Act
(IRA) of 1958, subsequently amended in 1965 and 1972.
Organized labor in Ghana is represented by the independent
Trades Union Congress (TUC) , established in 1958. It consists
of a national headquarters and 16 affiliated unions,
representing a claimed total membership of over 700,000
workers in skilled and semiskilled trades. Union members
elect their own leaders, and representatives of the affiliated
unions elect the TUC leadership at quadrennial conferences,
the most recent being in March. The TUC publishes its own
newspaper. It is independent of government subventions and
has publicly criticized the Government at times for its
economic policies as well as its failure to adequately consult
the trade union movement.
The right to strike is recognized in law and in practice,
although the Government has on occasion taken strong action to
end strikes, especially those which threaten interests it
perceives as vital. Under the IRA, the Government has
established a system under which it seeks first to conciliate,
then arbitrate, disputes. Discussions have been under way for
some time to replace this system with labor tribunals to
arbitrate industrial disputes certified as deadlocked, but the
Government has declared that establishment of labor tribunals
must be part of a new, consolidated industrial relations act,
which cannot be implemented piecemeal.
The TUC represents Ghanaian workers in the meetings of the
International Labor Organization (ILO) and is affiliated to
the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU)
Consistent with OATUU guidelines, it maintains no other
international affiliations, although it has friendly relations
with other international labor organizations, including the
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the World
Federation of Trade Unions.
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The right to organize is generally respected, although civil
servants are prohibited by law from joining or organizing a
trade union. The TUC is a large, well-established union
organization whose membership has shown little growth in
recent years, largely due to a stagnant economy which has
produced few new jobs. Ghana's trade unions engage in
collective bargaining for wages and benefits with both private
and state-owned enterprises, though in the latter category the
threat of detention (a common practice in the early 1980's)
hangs over union leaders to force agreement on issues. At the
end of 1988, no union leaders were under detention for
union-related activities. There are no functioning export
processing zones in Ghana, and labor legislation is applied
uniformly throughout the country.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Ghanaian law prohibits forced labor, and it is not known to be
      d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
Labor legislation in Ghana sets a minimum employment age of 15
and prohibits night work and certain types of hazardous labor
for those under 18. In practice, child labor is prevalent,
and young children of school age can often be found during the
day performing menial tasks in the market or collecting fares
on local buses. Enforcement of minimum age laws is uneven,
especially since local custom and economic circumstances favor
children working to help their families. Violators of
regulations prohibiting heavy labor and night work for children
are occasionally punished.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Minimum standards for wages and working conditions are
established through a tripartite committee composed of
representatives of government, labor, and employees. It
establishes a minimum wage rate, and other salaries are
adjusted accordingly. Effective January 1987, the minimum
wage was increased 25 percent to $0.50 per working day at
current exchange rates. In early 1988, the TUC called for a
"meaningful" national wage of not less than $4.00 per day.
The existing minimum wage is insufficient for a single wage
earner to support a family. In most cases, however, households
are supported by multiple wage earners, some family farming,
and other family based commercial activities. The tripartite
committee was unable to agree on a cost-of-living study, and
no minimum wage increase was mandated, although the TUC was
authorized to enter into collective bargaining with private
and state-owned enterprises anyway. The basic workweek in
Ghana is 40 hours. Occupational safety and health regulations
are in effect, and sanctions are occasionally applied to