On Saturday, April 15, 2023, the Deputy General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Dr Antoinette Tsiboe-Darko, appeared on Joy FM’s News File programme to discuss some contemporary national issues.
During the discussions, she claimed that the recent US State Department’s report on human rights in Ghana was not about any specific government.
Dr Tsiboe-Darko, who is also the Executive Director of the Danquah Institute, argued that the report did not accuse the current political administration of any wrongdoing.
Fact-Check Ghana has verified a claim she made and presents the facts below.
Claim: “So, if you look at the report comprehensively, you come to the conclusion that it is not an indictment on political office and we need to take it that way. That it’s an observation about the implementation of how we look at our legislation, how we ensure that institutions are able to roll out the things that they are supposed to do, the modus-operandi of state security agencies, criminalization of false news and criminal offense. It’s so many things. That is why I say, it is not about any specific administration because I’ve chanced on reports that speak to these issues occurring over the last decade.”
Explanation: To begin with, the US State Department’s report is titled GHANA 2022 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT.
The third paragraph of the report’s executive summary pointed out that:
“Significant human rights issues included credible reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings including extrajudicial killings; torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by the government or on behalf of the government.”
As a delegative democracy, Ghana’s 1992 Constitution gives the president the power to appoint the heads of all public institutions in the country. It is these public institutions that form the government.
Moreover, the report cited several specific human rights abuses that occurred under this current administration in 2022.
Section 2 of the report, titled Respect for Civil Liberties highlighted the well-publicized detention of the lead convener of the #FixTheCountry movement, Oliver Barker Vormawor.
On February 11, police arrested Oliver Barker Vormawor, an activist critical of the government, in response to a series of Facebook posts. After initially charging him with misdemeanour charges of making false statements, police upgraded the charges to felony treason and held him in prison for 35 days before a judge released him on bail.
Under the same section, the report pointed out several instances of violence and harassment of journalists in 2022. Notable among them was the case that involved the first lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo.
In the same month, police arrested the Executive Director of the Alliance for Social Equity and Public Accountability and a prominent morning show host for accusing the first lady of misappropriating public funds. Authorities charged the two with the publication of false news; the cases remained pending. In isolated incidents apparently condoned by authorities, some supporters of the ruling political party harassed and attacked journalists.
The report further highlighted some forceful crackdowns of protests by the state in June 2022.
In June, police used tear gas to forcibly disperse a spontaneous student protest at an Islamic senior high school in Accra, with 30 students hospitalized for minor respiratory injuries. Authorities subsequently removed the deputy regional commander from his position, and police reorganized specific police units to improve access to crowd control training. As of November, an internal investigation into the incident continued.
On June 29, police used tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets to disperse the first day of the Arise Ghana protests after demonstrators veered from the court approved route. After negotiations between police and protest organizers, the second day of protesting was largely peaceful.
Apart from the widespread and usual endemic corruption incidents in the country, the US State Department’s report, fingered the Special Prosecutor’s investigation into corruption allegations by the Labianca Company.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor conducted expanding investigations into the Labianca Company, a firm with extensive ties to the government, finding credible claims of improper issuance of customs advance rulings and markdowns of benchmark values by the customs division of the Ghana Revenue Authority.
Thus, most parts of the report highlighted human rights abuses recorded in 2022 under the Akufo-Addo-led government.
From the above, although it is true that there are systemic issues, Dr Antoinette Tsiboe-Darko’s claim that the 2022 US State Department’s report was not on a specific government is misleading.
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