Following the Second World War, where millions of people lost their lives and horrified by the devastation, members of the United Nations (UN) took a pledge to take immediate measures, never to repeat such a pernicious event but to achieve a universal respect for fundamental human rights and freedom for all. This commitment came in the form of UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS (UDHR) adopted by the member states of the United Nation’s General Assembly on December, 10th 1948.
The world today has accepted the idea that all human beings are entitled to and empowered for a dignified existence to live in harmony. It is a common phenomenon that groups and individuals everywhere, demand the realization of diverse values to ensure their individual collective well-being. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is 70 years. It has become the cornerstone of Human Rights, and the most influential set of norms in our time that specifies and unequivocally affirms the agreed basic rights for a peaceful and prosperous society. Today, the world has been more peaceful than before and because of this, we enjoy press freedom, the abolishment of the blasphemous libel law, freedom of speech, movement and many other freedoms. But can we say we have measurably adhered to and achieved the articles of the UDHR as a State?
Today, our streets are littered with Children. Children are the property of the State and every owner of a property takes good care of it. Children are trafficked and sold into hard labour. We trade children on the market like currencies and commodities. This is sad, that we have failed to protect the hope of our future. We have sold a president into hard labour, we have misplaced our ministers and Doctors and Lawyers. Can Ghana be proud of the successes of the 70th anniversary of Human Rights? Oh Yess!!!. We have choked lots of successes but more need to be done to set our priorities within the framework of UDHR to curb the structural violence.
Besides, the violations of moral and legal rights are the cause of violence and consequences. The Human Needs theory and the theory of Frustration – Aggression often lead to groups exercising their Claim Rights, that metamorphosis into conflict and separatism. When human rights of groups or individuals are violated, it does not only cause conflict or consequences but both as causes and consequences of (armed) conflict. Citizens’ Rights are violated daily and Human Rights abuses have never decreased. Once violations become pervasive, more Groups and individuals would claim their Rights.
Everyone has the right to Claim Right but how to claim your Claim rights means you need to perform your expected responsibilities. This is because even though Rights are inalienable and inherent, we have sold our rights to the State, enshrined in the Constitution and that ones’ rights can be exercised within an acceptable set of norms (Laws). Once ones’ rights are sold to the state it is difficult to claim. however, Rights may be claimed by the Right Holder’s when his duties and responsibilities are performed while the Duty Bearer shirks her responsibilities. The violation of one’s rights by the State is a cause and consequences of violence. Rights without discrimination are indispensable for the citizenry to create a better attitude to do lots of the tasks civilly and comfortably for a harmonious coexistence. Human Rights knowledge enhances the cultivation of better attitudes to get their proper Rights for the benefit of themselves and the State.
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The Chapter 5 of Ghana’s Constitution guarantees the Human Rights of all individuals, titled Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms, Which provides for rights such as right to life, liberty, economic rights, absence of torture and women’s right.
The Parliament represents the people to make right laws for development and to protect the rights of the people they serve. It is the democratic right of parliament to protect the rights of the people through passing of Bills and legislative instruments. Article 12 (1) States that, “The fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in this chapter shall be respected and upheld by the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary and all other organs of government and its agencies and, where applicable to them, by all natural and legal persons in Ghana, and shall be enforceable by the Courts as provided for in this Constitution.” Today, many people do not trust the judiciary system based on experience or what other have heard. It is believed that Justice is being exchanged for material gifts and seem the Laws benefits a small class of people at the expense of the majority. Do you think the three arms of government have objectively enforced human rights as a pre-requisite tenet to ensuring a positive peace?
In the same vein, article 17 (1) of the same Chapter of Ghana’s Constitution states that, “All persons shall be equal before the law.” Also, Clause (2) state that “A person shall not be discriminated against on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status.” Supporting these unambiguous legal statements with Article 7 of the UDHR that “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.” Do I need to skip the question that, are all Ghanaians equal before the Law? Certainly not!!
The Article (4) vividly posits that “Nothing in this article shall prevent Parliament from enacting laws that are reasonably necessary to provide –
for the implementation of policies and programmes aimed at redressing social, economic or educational imbalance in the Ghanaian society;”
In this Regard and that in 1993, Parliament through the article 216, established the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) with the Act 596, six months after the coming into force of the Constitution. The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) is enshrined in Chapter 18 of the 1992 constitution of Ghana.
That CHRAJ is not only responsible for checking and redressing incidents of maladministration and accountability but also to promote human rights. Thus CHRAJ combines the characteristics of the Ombudsman and a Human Rights and Ghana, as one of the countries to have adopted this progressive democratic instrument for a fair and just society.
The objective of CHRAJ is to probe into protestation of violations of fundamental human rights, freedoms, injustice and corruption; abuse of power and unfair treatment of persons by public officers in the exercise of their duties, with power to seek remedy in respect of such acts and to provide for other related functions. Is CHRAJ working to defend the human rights of the citizens? Your guess may be good as mine.
On the website of Ghana’s Parliament from March – November, 2018, there hasn’t been any discussions on Human Rights tenets during sitting or integrating aspects of it into their motions. The Website of CHRAJ, had no current reports and special reports for public use. There are only two Annual Reports (2010 and 2011), two Investigation Reports (2006 and 2017), six Special Reports (2005, 2006, 2007,2009, and 2013) and one article on Child Labor. Events and Programs are held by the Government to make the citizens to get all the information about their Rights and to make them aware of how to get their Rights in the proper way. There are more people who are illiterate and are not able to get their Rights to do lots of the tasks. The CHRAJ is supposed to feed the populace with information sharing to advance respect for human rights in Ghanaian society through public education and awareness creation, yet we have no Reports on their website for scrutiny. Is CHRAJ as quasi-judicial institution really espousing the principles of accountability and transparency? Since 1993 we have no translated documents on CHRAJ’s website for better understanding of what the Human Rights are for the locals.
Government needs to be focused and take possible steps to get everyone on the same platform to enhance the exercising of their Rights within the Laws. Many People today are curious to get all the Basic Rights right, but they are not getting it due to lack of information and education of those Rights. The focus should be on every Child, Teenagers and adults to get all the knowledge about their Human Rights. Every citizen must be aware about their Rights and Opportunities so they can civilly and politically feel part of the democracy. This will give every citizen the Knowledge about all the types of Rights and How to get it by proper ways when there is a Problem of getting those Rights
The Parliament has a special role in the promotion and protection of human rights, as a shared responsibility with the two arms of government and CHRAJ must be active to protect the fundamental human rights of Ghanaians.
Human Rights Student
Centre for Conflict, Human Rights and Peace Studies (CHRAPS)
Unversity of Education, Winneba.
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