The Commissioner on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Mr. Joseph Whittal has pledged his commitment to support Crime Check Foundation (CCF) in ensuring that the rights of poor and vulnerable Ghanaians are protected in Ghana.
Speaking during a courtesy call on him by CCF, Mr. Whittal described as shocking why there still exists some draconian laws that criminalize certain actions of poor and vulnerable persons. He said CHRAJ would always support interventions that seek to ensure such individuals are not unfairly imprisoned.
Mr. Whittal stressed that “vagrancy is not a criminal offence, and that, Ghana should rather improve on its social protection system and reform its harsh laws” that appear to overly target the poor and the vulnerable.
He reminded the public that the Non-Custodial Sentencing Bill which was ready for submission to the last Parliament had to be recalled for “further strengthening.” He therefore, lauded CCF for pushing for the finalization and the passage of the bill and called on other stakeholders to join the campaign.
Citing recent efforts aimed at decriminalizing vagrancy, the Commissioner said, “we have actually impressed on the Attorney General of Ghana to mark out those offences that emanated from our colonial past, where the colonial masters felt that they would keep certain people from the cities, and so, if you are loitering around you are a threat to their peace and comfort.”
He noted that the African Commission of which CHRAJ is a member makes sure that all Human rights institutions in Africa ensure that the “policy of decriminalizing vagrancy laws is dealt with through either repeals or appropriate sanctions”. “We can replace imprisoning of vagrants with prohibition of conduct”, for instance, he said. He added “The National Preventive Mechanism” bill will also be passed to give CHRAJ the opportunity to visit any detention centre with the media to check infractions and rights abuses.
The purpose of the courtesy call, on Wednesday, 11th August 2021, was to officially inform the Commissioner of CHRAJ about the implementation of the CCF-OSIWA “Decriminalizing Vagrancy Laws and Advocacy” project which seeks to create an enabling environment for vagrants (the homeless, street hawkers, head porters, vendors, truck pushers, market women, artisans, and other identifiable and vulnerable groups) to know, claim and exercise their rights and responsibilities in Ghana.
The Executive Director of CCF, Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng proposed that CHRAJ provide data on infractions of the law so that they can be properly dealt with. “Our justice delivery system is a mockery and it dents our image as a democratic country. It is sad that the country does not have data of these infractions. I will urge the Commission to provide data on these infractions to make it easy to deal with such situations.” He stated.
The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), established in 2000, is a grant-making and advocacy organization focused on equality, justice, democratic governance, human rights, and knowledge generation. It is part of the global network of Open Society Foundations spread across 37 countries around the world. He said the Assemblies outrageously fine these vagrants for committing petty offences.
Citizens’ Complaints: To report harassment and potential imprisonment under a local assembly bye-law, please contact or whatsApp: 0559544199 / 0507353539.
By: Cosmos Akorli