International Criminology World

World : Africa : Ghana

The history of the Gold Coast before the last quarter of the 15th century is derived primarily from oral tradition that refers to migrations from the ancient kingdoms of the western Soudan (the area of Mauritania and Mali). The Gold Coast was renamed Ghana upon independence in 1957 because of indications that present-day inhabitants descended from migrants who moved south from the ancient kingdom of Ghana. The first contact between Europe and the Gold Coast dates from 1470, when a party of Portuguese landed. In 1482, the Portuguese built Elmina Castle as a permanent trading base. The first recorded English trading voyage to the coast was made by Thomas Windham in 1553. During the next three centuries, the English, Danes, Dutch, Germans, and Portuguese controlled various parts of the coastal areas. In 1821, the British Government took control of the British trading forts on the Gold Coast. In 1844, Fanti chiefs in the area signed an agreement with the British that became the legal steppingstone to colonial status for the coastal area. From 1826 to 1900, the British fought a series of campaigns against the Ashantis, whose kingdom was located inland. In 1902, they succeeded in establishing firm control over the Ashanti region and making the northern territories a protectorate. British Togoland, the fourth territorial element eventually to form the nation, was part of a former German colony administered by the United Kingdom from Accra as a League of Nations mandate after 1922. In December 1946, British Togoland became a UN Trust Territory, and in 1957, following a 1956 plebiscite, the United Nations agreed that the territory would become part of Ghana when the Gold Coast achieved independence.

The four territorial divisions were administered separately until 1946, when the British Government ruled them as a single unit. In 1951, a constitution was promulgated that called for a greatly enlarged legislature composed principally of members elected by popular vote directly or indirectly. An executive council was responsible for formulating policy, with most African members drawn from the legislature and including three ex officio members appointed by the governor. A new constitution, approved on April 29, 1954, established a cabinet comprising African ministers drawn from an all-African legislature chosen by direct election. In the elections that followed, the Convention People's Party (CPP), led by Kwame Nkrumah, won the majority of seats in the new Legislative Assembly. In May 1956, Prime Minister Nkrumah's Gold Coast government issued a white paper containing proposals for Gold Coast independence. The British Government stated it would agree to a firm date for independence if a reasonable majority for such a step were obtained in the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly after a general election. This election, held in 1956, returned the CPP to power with 71 of the 104 seats in the Legislative Assembly. Ghana became an independent state on March 6, 1957, when the United Kingdom relinquished its control over the Colony of the Gold Coast and Ashanti, the Northern Territories Protectorate, and British Togoland.

In subsequent reorganizations, the country was divided into 10 regions, which currently are subdivided into 110 districts. The original Gold Coast Colony now comprises the Western, Central, Eastern, and Greater Accra Regions, with a small portion at the mouth of the Volta River assigned to the Volta Region; the Ashanti area was divided into the Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo Regions; the Northern Territories into the Northern, Upper East, and Upper West Regions; and British Togoland essentially is the same area as the Volta Region.

After independence, the CPP government under Nkrumah sought to develop Ghana as a modern, semi-industrialized, unitary socialist state. The government emphasized political and economic organization, endeavoring to increase stability and productivity through labor, youth, farmers, cooperatives, and other organizations integrated with the CPP. The government, according to Nkrumah, acted only as "the agent of the CPP" in seeking to accomplish these goals. The CPP's control was challenged and criticized, and Prime Minister Nkrumah used the Preventive Detention Act (1958), which provided for detention without trial for up to 5 years (later extended to 10 years). On July 1, 1960, a new constitution was adopted, changing Ghana from a parliamentary system with a prime minister to a republican form of government headed by a powerful president. In August 1960, Nkrumah was given authority to scrutinize newspapers and other publications before publication. This political evolution continued into early 1964, when a constitutional referendum changed the country to a one-party state. On February 24, 1966, the Ghanaian Army and police overthrew Nkrumah's regime. Nkrumah and all his ministers were dismissed, the CPP and National Assembly were dissolved, and the constitution was suspended. The new regime cited Nkrumah's flagrant abuse of individual rights and liberties, his regime's corrupt, oppressive, and dictatorial practices, and the rapidly deteriorating economy as the principal reasons for its action.

The leaders of the February 24 coup established the new government around the National Liberation Council (NLC) and pledged an early return to a duly constituted civilian government. Members of the judiciary and civil service remained at their posts and committees of civil servants were established to handle the administration of the country. Ghana's government returned to civilian authority under the Second Republic in October 1969 after a parliamentary election in which the Progress Party, led by Kofi A. Busia, won 105 of the 140 seats. Until mid-1970, the powers of the chief of state were held by a presidential commission led by Brigadier A.A. Afrifa. In a special election on August 31, 1970, former Chief Justice Edward Akufo-Addo was chosen president, and Dr. Busia became prime minister. Faced with mounting economic problems, Prime Minister Busia's government undertook a drastic devaluation of the currency in December 1971. The government's inability to control the subsequent inflationary pressures stimulated further discontent, and military officers seized power in a bloodless coup on January 13, 1972. The coup leaders, led by Col. I.K. Acheampong, formed the National Redemption Council (NRC) to which they admitted other officers, the head of the police, and one civilian. The NRC promised improvements in the quality of life for all Ghanaians and based its programs on nationalism, economic development, and self-reliance. In 1975, a government reorganization resulted in the NRC's replacement by the Supreme Military Council (SMC), also headed by now-General Acheampong. Unable to deliver on its promises, the NRC/SMC became increasingly marked by mismanagement and rampant corruption. In 1977, General Acheampong brought forward the concept of union government (UNIGOV), which would make Ghana a non-party state. Perceiving this as a ploy by Acheampong to retain power, professional groups and students launched strikes and demonstrations against the government in 1977 and 1978. The steady erosion in Acheampong's power led to his arrest in July 1978 by his chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Frederick Akuffo, who replaced him as head of state and leader of what became known as the SMC-2. Akuffo abandoned UNIGOV and established a plan to return to constitutional and democratic government. A Constitutional Assembly was established, and political party activity was revived. Akuffo was unable to solve Ghana's economic problems, however, or to reduce the rampant corruption in which senior military officers played a major role. On June 4, 1979, his government was deposed in a violent coup by a group of junior and noncommissioned officers--Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC)--with Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings as its chairman. The AFRC executed eight senior military officers, including former chiefs of state Acheampong and Akuffo; established Special Tribunals that, secretly and without due process, tried dozens of military officers, other government officials, and private individuals for corruption, sentencing them to long prison terms and confiscating their property; and, through a combination of force and exhortation, attempted to rid Ghanaian society of corruption and profiteering. At the same time, the AFRC accepted, with a few amendments, the draft constitution that had been submitted, permitted the scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections to take place in June and July, promulgated the constitution, and handed over power to the newly elected president and parliament of the Third Republic on September 24, 1979. The 1979 constitution was modeled on those of Western democracies. It provided for the separation of powers among an elected president and a unicameral parliament, an independent judiciary headed by a Supreme Court, which protected individual rights, and other autonomous institutions, such as the Electoral Commissioner and the Ombudsman. The new president, Dr. Hilla Limann, was a career diplomat from the north and the candidate of the People's National Party (PNP), the political heir of Nkrumah's CPP. Of the 140 members of parliament, 71 were PNP. The PNP government established the constitutional institutions and generally respected democracy and individual human rights. It failed, however, to halt the continuing decline in the economy; corruption flourished, and the gap between rich and poor widened. On December 31, 1981, Flight Lt. Rawlings and a small group of enlisted and former soldiers launched a coup that succeeded against little opposition in toppling President Limann.

Rawlings and his colleagues suspended the 1979 constitution, dismissed the president and his cabinet, dissolved the parliament, and proscribed existing political parties. They established the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), initially composed of seven members with Rawlings as chairman, to exercise executive and legislative powers. The existing judicial system was preserved, but alongside it the PNDC created the National Investigation Committee to root out corruption and other economic offenses, the anonymous Citizens' Vetting Committee to punish tax evasion, and the Public Tribunals to try various crimes. The PNDC proclaimed its intent to allow the people to exercise political power through defense committees to be established in communities, workplaces, and in units of the armed forces and police. Under the PNDC, Ghana remained a unitary government. In December 1982, the PNDC announced a plan to decentralize government from Accra to the regions, the districts, and local communities, but it maintained overall control by appointing regional and district secretaries who exercised executive powers and also chaired regional and district councils. Local councils, however, were expected progressively to take over the payment of salaries, with regions and districts assuming more powers from the national government. In 1984, the PNDC created a National Appeals Tribunal to hear appeals from the public tribunals, changed the Citizens' Vetting Committee into the Office of Revenue Collection and replaced the system of defense committees with Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. In 1984, the PNDC also created a National Commission on Democracy to study ways to establish participatory democracy in Ghana. The commission issued a "Blue Book" in July 1987 outlining modalities for district-level elections, which were held in late 1988 and early 1989, for newly created district assemblies. One-third of the assembly members are appointed by the government.

Under international and domestic pressure for a return to democracy, the PNDC allowed the establishment of a 258-member Consultative Assembly made up of members representing geographic districts as well as established civic or business organizations. The assembly was charged to draw up a draft constitution to establish a fourth republic, using PNDC proposals. The PNDC accepted the final product without revision, and it was put to a national referendum on April 28, 1992, in which it received 92% approval. On May 18, 1992, the ban on party politics was lifted in preparation for multi-party elections. The PNDC and its supporters formed a new party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), to contest the elections. Presidential elections were held on November 3 and parliamentary elections on December 29 of that year. Members of the opposition boycotted the parliamentary elections, however, which resulted in a 200 seat Parliament with only 17 opposition party members and two independents. The Constitution entered into force on January 7, 1993, to found the Fourth Republic. On that day, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings was inaugurated as President and members of Parliament swore their oaths of office. In 1996, the opposition fully contested the presidential and parliamentary elections, which were described as peaceful, free, and transparent by domestic and international observers. In that election, President Rawlings was re-elected with 57% of the popular vote. In addition, Rawlings' NDC party won 133 of the Parliament's 200 seats, just one seat short of the two-thirds majority needed to amend the Constitution, although the election returns of two parliamentary seats face legal challenges. In the December 7, 2000 elections, John A. Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), won the largest share of the presidential vote with 48.17% of the vote, compared to 44.54% for Rawlings' vice-president and hand-picked successor, John Atta Mills of the NDC. The NPP also won 100 of the 200 seats in Parliament. The NDC won 92 seats, while independent and small party candidates won eight seats. In the December 28 run-off election, with pledges of support from the other five opposition parties, Kufuor defeated Mills by winning 56.73% of the vote and the NPP picked up one additional MP by winning a by-election, giving them 100 seats and a majority in Parliament. Both rounds of the election were observed, and declared free and fair, by a large contingent of domestic and international monitors. President Kufuor took the oath of office on January 7, 2001, becoming the first elected president in Ghana's history to succeed another elected president.

Today, Ghana is a constitutional republic with a strong presidency and a unicameral 200-seat Parliament; multiparty elections have been held every 4 years since the country returned to constitutional rule in 1992. In December 2000, six opposition parties and the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) contested presidential and parliamentary elections, which despite a few incidents of intimidation and election fraud, domestic and international observers judged generally free and fair. On January 7, 2001, John Agyekum Kufuor of the opposition National Patriotic Party (NPP) was inaugurated as president. President Kufuor was elected president in a run-off election with 56.7 percent of the vote against then Vice-President John Atta Mills of the NDC. In the 2000 legislative elections, the NPP won 100 seats in Parliament, while the NDC, the former ruling party, won 92 seats, and independent candidates and smaller parties won 8 seats. The Constitution calls for a system of checks and balances, with an executive branch headed by the President, a unicameral parliament, an independent judiciary, and several autonomous commissions, such as the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ). In practice the system of checks and balances is limited by a system-wide lack of resources that affects all three branches. The former ruling party, which is the opposition under the Kufuor Government with nearly half the seats in Parliament, closely scrutinizes government actions. The Government respects the constitutional provisions for an independent judiciary; however, in practice the judiciary is subject to influence and corruption and lacks adequate resources.


The economy remains dependent on agriculture, with approximately 41 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and 59 percent of employment derived from this sector, according to government statistics. The country's population is 19.5 million. Gold, cocoa, and timber are the traditional sources of export earnings, although cocoa and gold revenues fell due to the drop in the prices of these commodities on the world market. Tourism is the third largest foreign exchange earner. Service sector growth outpaced both agriculture and industry. The economy grew at a rate of 3.7 percent, up from 3.0 percent in 2000, due to the fall in the world price of gold and cocoa and the fluctuating price of crude oil. Inflation fell from 40 percent to 21 percent. Per capita GDP remained at approximately $320 (2,304,000 cedis), and the cedi remained relatively stable at year's end 2001.


Two of the three categories of offenses cited in the Criminal Code concern offenses against the individual. The third category includes a series of offenses against public order, health and morality, and the security of the state as well as piracy, perjury, rioting, vagrancy, and cruelty to animals. Several offenses reflect Ghana's traditional laws, including drumming with the intent to provoke disorder, cocoa smuggling, and settlement of private disputes by methods of traditional ordeal.

Criminal Court procedure is guided by the Criminal Procedure Code of 1960 as subsequently amended. As in British law, habeas corpus is allowed, and the courts are authorized to release suspects on bail. Ghana's legal system does not use grand juries, but, in accordance with constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights, defendants charged with a criminal offense are entitled to a trial by jury.

Five degrees of offenses are recognized in Ghana. Capital offenses, for which the maximum penalty is death by hanging, include murder, treason, and piracy. First-degree felonies punishable by life imprisonment are limited to manslaughter, rape, and mutiny. Second-degree felonies, punishable by ten years' imprisonment, include intentional and unlawful harm to persons, perjury, and robbery. Misdemeanors, punishable by various terms of imprisonment, include assault, theft, unlawful assembly, official corruption, and public nuisances. Increased penalties apply to individuals with a prior criminal record. Corporal punishment is not permitted. Punishments for juveniles are subject to two restrictions: no death sentence may be passed against a juvenile, and no juvenile under age seventeen may be imprisoned. Regulations and laws such as these are not applied equitably. Indeed, defendants habitually resort to one or another measure to avoid or ameliorate punishment.


The crime rate in Ghana is very low compared to industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Ghana. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Ghana will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate per 100,000 population in 2000 was 2.48 for Ghana, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2000 was 6.85 for Ghana, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2000 was 2.15 for Ghana, 4.08 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2000 was 448.42 for Ghana, 23.78 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2000 was 1.3 for Ghana, 233.60 for Japan, and 728.42 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2000 was 0.08 for Ghana, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2475.27 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2000 was not reported for Ghana. The rate for all index offenses combined was 461.28 for Ghana, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4123.97 for USA (noting that motor vehicle theft was omitted as part of this total for Ghana).


Between 1996 and 2000, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder increased from 2.23 to 2.48, an increase of 11.2%. The rate for rape increased from 4.04 to 6.85, an increase of 69.6%. The rate of robbery increased from 1.12 to 2.15, an increase of 92%. The rate for aggravated assault increased from 404.51 to 448.42 per 100,000, an increase of 10.9%. The rate for burglary decreased from 4.42 to 1.3, a decrease of 70.6%. The rate of larceny increased was not reported in 1996, and the rate of motor vehicle theft was not reported in either 1996 or 2000. The rate of total index offenses increased from 416.32 to 461.28, an increase of 10.8% (noting that data on larceny was not reported in 1996 and motor vehicle theft in neither 1996 nor 2000).


Prior to the advent of British imperial rule, traditional law, which sought to maintain social equilibrium and to ensure communal solidarity, governed social relations among Ghana's peoples. Among the Talensi ethnic group of northern Ghana, for example, homicide was viewed as a transgression against the earth, one's ancestors, and the victim's lineage. Deterrence from crime or rehabilitation of an offender were not objectives of the legal system. Among the Asante, the same concern with social equilibrium and communal solidarity prevailed. Serious crimes such as murder, unintentional homicide, suicide, sexual offenses, treason, cowardice in war, witchcraft, and crimes against the chief were termed oman akyiwad, offenses that threatened the mystical communion between the community on the one hand and one's ancestors and Asante gods on the other. The authorities punished such behavior with a sentence of death in the case of murder or by the sacrifice of an appropriate animal in the case of lesser offenses. Efise, or minor crimes, did not rupture this relationship; hence, an offender could repay his debt to society with a ritual impat, or compensation.

The British imposed upon Ghana's traditional societies criminal laws and penal systems designed to "keep the multitude in order" rather than to preserve the equilibrium between man and traditional gods. The development of penal law, however, was uneven. From 1828 to 1842, a council of merchants exercised criminal jurisdiction in and around British forts on the coast. The council often abused this power, thereby alienating many Ghanaians. After creating the Colony of the Gold Coast in 1874, the British gradually reformed and improved the legal and the penal systems. After more than a century of legal evolution, the application of traditional law to criminal acts disappeared. Since 1961 the criminal law administered by the court system has been statutory and based on a Criminal Code. This code is founded on British common law, doctrines of equity, and general statutes which were in force in Britain in 1874, as amended by subsequent Ghanaian ordinances.


The origins of Ghana's police force lie in efforts by the British council of merchants to protect trading routes and depots. In 1830 the committee hired numerous guards and escorts. Fourteen years later, the British established the 120-member Gold Coast Militia and Police (GCMP). The authorities disbanded this force in 1860 and created a ninety-member corps called the Queen's Messengers. Military units assumed the GCMP's paramilitary duties.

During the Asante wars, the Queen's Messengers joined the Hausa Constabulary, imported from Nigeria, and formed the Gold Coast Armed Police Force. In 1876 the British reorganized this unit into the Gold Coast Constabulary, which was divided into two forces in 1901, with the paramilitary mission assigned to the Gold Coast Regiment and the police functions given to the Gold Coast Police Force. The Northern Territories Constabulary, which the British created in 1907, joined the Gold Coast Police Force shortly after World War I. This left Ghana with one police force, a situation that prevailed until independence.

During the 1950s, the British instituted several changes in the Gold Coast Police Force to modernize, enlarge, and better equip the force. Of greater importance was Britain's decision to Africanize the police. During the first decade of this century, the British had restricted access to senior positions in all branches of the colonial administration. This restriction became a major concern of Ghanaian nationalists, who agitated against it, an action that gradually caused a reduction in the number of British officers. In 1951, for example, sixty-four of eighty senior police officers were foreigners; however, by 1958, only eleven of 128 senior officers were foreigners.

This Africanization continued under Nkrumah. In 1958 Nkrumah appointed the first Ghanaian police commissioner, E.R.T. Madjitey. By the early 1960s, the only expatriates who remained on the force were a few technical advisers and instructors. Nkrumah, however, distrusted the police. After an unsuccessful assassination attempt against Nkrumah in 1964 by a police constable, he disarmed the police, discharged nine senior officers, detained eight others, and removed the Border Guards unit from the police and placed it under military control. Nkrumah also reduced the size of the police force from 13,247 in 1964 to 10,709 in 1965.

After the demise of the Nkrumah regime, the size of the police force increased from 17,692 in 1966 to 19,895 in 1968. The government also restored the Border Guards unit to police control (in 1972 this unit again became an autonomous unit). By the early 1980s, the police enjoyed respect from most Ghanaians because, for the most part, they were not involved with government attempts to suppress political dissidents or to punish those suspected of trying to overthrow the Rawlings regime, duties normally assigned to the armed forces.

In 1993 Ghana's law enforcement establishment consisted of 351 police officers, 649 inspectors, and 15,191 personnel in other grades distributed among 479 stations. The national headquarters are in Accra; they operate under command of an inspector general. An eight-member Police Council, established in 1969, advises the inspector general on all personnel and policy matters. The inspector general supervises ten police regions, each commanded by an assistant commissioner of police. The police regions in turn are divided into districts, stations, and posts. The police service is composed of General Administration, Criminal Investigations Department, Special Branch, Police Hospital, and National Ambulance Service.

Recruitment into the police is conducted at the rank-and-file and the commissioned-officer levels. All recruits must be between eighteen and thirty-four years of age, must pass a medical examination, and must have no criminal record. Escort Police applicants must have at least basic facility in spoken English, General Police applicants must have completed middle school or junior secondary school, and officer corps applicants must hold a university degree.

Training for rank-and-file personnel in the Escort and the General Police forces is conducted at the Elmina police depot; Escort Police also have been trained at several regional depots. Since 1975 recruits have attended a nine-month course of instruction in physical training and drill, firearms use, unarmed combat, and first aid. Escort Police are given general education and instruction in patrol and escort duties. General Police are trained in criminal law and procedures, methods of investigation, current affairs, and social sciences.

The Accra Police College, established in 1959, offers a ninemonth officer cadet course and two- to six-week refresher courses in general and technical subjects. Police officers staff the college; guest lecturers come from the police, other government agencies, and universities. The officer cadet course offers instruction in criminal law and procedures, laws of evidence, police administration, finance, social sciences, practical police work, and physical fitness. Upon graduation, cadets are sworn in and promoted to assistant superintendent.

Since the early 1990s, the reputation of the police has improved, primarily because fewer individual officers have used their positions to extort money from civilians. Moreover, an increasing number of police have been deployed overseas to support Ghana's commitment to international peacekeeping operations. In 1992-93, for example, a police contingent served with the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia. In addition to supervising local police and maintaining law and order, this contingent also tried to prevent gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Currently, several security organizations report to various government departments. The police, under the jurisdiction of an eight-member Police Council, are responsible for maintaining law and order. A separate department, the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), handles cases considered critical to state security and answers directly to the executive branch. Although the security apparatus is controlled by and responsive to the Government, the monitoring, supervision, and education of the police in particular remain poor.

Police and other security forces have committed some serious human rights abuses. Security forces have committed a number of extrajudicial killings of criminal suspects. The number of deaths reportedly caused by members of the security services increased from five in 2000 to seven during the year 2001. Police have continued to use rubber bullets and water cannons in crowd control situations. In recent years, the police service in particular has come under severe criticism following incidents of police brutality, corruption, and negligence. Public confidence in the police remains low, and mobs attacked several police stations due to perceived police inaction, a delay in prosecuting suspects, rumors of collaboration with criminals, and the desire to deal with suspects through instant justice. The Ghana Governance and Corruption Survey, which was completed during the year 2001, found that the police were among the "least trusted, least effective, and most corrupt" government institutions in the country. In 1999 the presidential Archer Commission issued a white paper critiquing police operations and providing specific directives as to how to address police manpower, training, and logistical needs. The Inspector General of Police (IGP) publicly acknowledged these problems and attempted to address them through training in human rights and riot control. The Constitution prohibits torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; however, there have been continued credible reports that members of the police and customs officials beat prisoners and other citizens. It generally is believed that severe beatings of suspects in police custody occur throughout the country but largely go unreported. Police have set up illegal barriers to demand bribes from motorists. There also were credible reports that police have extorted money from local businesses by acting as private debt collectors and arresting citizens in exchange for bribes from detainees' disgruntled business associates. Police also have demanded money from suspects as a precondition of their release on bail. Government officials have said publicly that the Government's "zero tolerance for corruption" policy applies to the police and other security officials; however, a survey conducted during the year 2001 by the Center for Democracy and Development showed that 67 percent of respondents said they had paid bribes to the police. There were several cases of police being arrested and standing trial for abuses, including robbery and extortion. Machomen" (party thugs) and land guards, private security enforcers hired by citizens to settle private disputes and vendettas, have caused injury and property damage during the year 2001. The machomen are not constituted legally, but organized privately and operate outside the law. Police have arrested a land guard in the Greater Accra Region who was accused of involvement in a killing over a land dispute. The land guard was remanded into custody and was awaiting trial at year's end. The Constitution prohibits such actions; however, this provision has yet to be tested in court, and in practice the Government infringed on rights of privacy at times. Although the law requires judicial search warrants, police do not always obtain them in practice. Security forces conducted a number of searches of the homes of opposition party members, ostensibly looking for illegal arms caches or evidence of corrupt activities. Police sometimes have arrested persons during searches.


Arbitrary arrest and detention are problems. The Constitution provides for protection against arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile and states that an individual detained shall be informed immediately, in a language that the detained person understands, of the reasons for the detention, and of the right to a lawyer and to an interpreter, at state expense. It also requires judicial warrants for arrest and provides for arraignment within 48 hours. However, in practice many abuses occur, including detention without charge for longer than 48 hours and failure to obtain a warrant for arrest. Authorities routinely do not notify prisoners' families of their incarceration; such information often is obtained only by chance. Human rights activists have criticized the common practice of arresting persons on Friday and keeping them in detention over the weekend until court was in session on Monday, which they described as a deliberate circumvention of the 48-hour detention rule.

The court has unlimited discretion to set bail, which can be prohibitively high. The court may refuse to release prisoners on bail and instead remand them without charge for an indefinite period, subject to weekly review by judicial authorities. The Constitution allows judicial authorities to hold citizens for up to 48 hours without filing charges against them. However, in practice it is common to remand a prisoner to investigative custody. The Constitution requires that a detainee who has not been tried within a "reasonable" time be released either unconditionally or subject to conditions necessary to ensure that he appear at a later date for court proceedings. In June 1999, the CHRAJ reported that there were a number of remand prisoners held for periods ranging from 1 week to 8 years. As of July 2000, approximately 20 percent, or approximately 2,000 of the 9,783 inmates nationwide, were remand prisoners. In October 2000, the acting Ashanti Regional Director of CHRAJ stated that more than one-third of the inmates of Kumasi Central Prison are remand prisoners. One-third remain in prison even after the warrants committing them to prison had expired. He criticized the judicial system for imposing prison sentences instead of levying fines, which could prevent further overcrowding of the prisons.

Despite the provisions of the law, abuses occur. At times persons are detained for trivial offenses or on unsubstantiated accusations.

Government officials have stated that the use of armed forces personnel in the maintenance of law and order would cease; however, the military has continued to participate regularly in law enforcement activities during the year 2001. The Government has not implemented any meaningful policy to reduce the number of pretrial detainees, although the independent press has called for reduction of harsh bail conditions for suspects who do not pose a threat to society. The Attorney General drafted a bill that would provide alternative dispute resolution methods to clear the court backlog, including a time limit on pending cases and was scheduled to forward it to the Cabinet during the year 2001; however, no legislation was introduced to Parliament during the year 2001. Many credible sources report that private citizens pay the police to arrest business associates in deals gone awry. A 1996 CHRAJ report on prison conditions recommended improvement in the administration of criminal justice, which currently denies many citizens their constitutional rights to be charged within 48 hours, to have bail posted within the same period, and to a speedy trial. Approximately one-third of the country's prison population are in remand custody awaiting trial. Some remain in remand for years without their cases being heard in court.

Rural women can be punished with banishment by traditional village authorities for being pregnant out-of-wedlock or for suspected witchcraft. The press reported that hundreds of women accused of witchcraft were sent to penal villages in the Northern Region by traditional authorities such as a shaman. Foreign diplomats and NGO representatives who visited them estimate that there are between 550 and 1,150 accused witches, the vast majority of them women, living in the camps; however, in the previous year, CHRAJ estimated that more than 5,000 women are residents in witches' camps in the Northern Regions. Although the women face no formal legal sanction if they leave, most fear they may be beaten or lynched if they do so. In 1999 the Presbyterian Church sponsored a "go home" project to reintegrate into society women accused of witchcraft and forced to live at the Gambaga "witches" village. A total of 55 of 200 such women have reunited with their families. The project also provided for loans to enable the liberated women to become more financially independent and to contribute to the well being of their families.


Since independence in 1957, the courts system, headed by the chief justice, has demonstrated extraordinary independence and resilience. The structure and jurisdiction of the courts were defined by the Courts Act of 1971, which established the Supreme Court of Ghana (or simply the Supreme Court), the Court of Appeal (Appellate Court) with two divisions--ordinary bench and full bench, and the High Court of Justice (or simply the High Court), a court with both appellate and original jurisdiction. The act also established the so-called inferior and traditional courts, which, along with the above courts, constituted the judiciary of Ghana according to the 1960, 1979, and 1992 constitutions.

Until mid-1993, the inferior courts in descending order of importance were the circuit courts, the district courts (magistrate courts) grades I and II, and juvenile courts. Such courts existed mostly in cities and large urban centers. In mid-1993, however, Parliament created a new system of lower courts, consisting of circuit tribunals and community tribunals in place of the former circuit courts and district (magistrate) courts. The traditional courts are the National House of Chiefs, the regional houses of chiefs, and traditional councils. The traditional courts are constituted by the judicial committees of the various houses and councils. All courts, both superior and inferior, with the exception of the traditional courts, are vested with jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters. The traditional courts have exclusive power to adjudicate any cause or matter affecting chieftaincy as defined by the Chieftaincy Act of 1971.

Judicial appointments are made by the chief justice on the advice of the independent Judicial Council of Ghana and are subject to government approval. The PNDC Establishment Proclamation abolished the Judicial Council, but it was reestablished by the 1992 constitution.

Ghana also has quasi-judicial agencies and institutions. Examples of these are the Reconciliation Committee of the Department of Social Welfare and Community Development, provision for private hearings at home, and the use of various spiritual agencies, such as shrines, churches, Muslim mallams, and specialists in the manipulation of supernatural powers to whom many ordinary people resort.

Noteworthy for both the colonial and the postcolonial periods up to the present are the special courts, public tribunals, politico-military bodies such as asaf companies, and vigilante groups. These bodies exercise quasijudicial , extra-judicial, and law enforcement functions that often complement, and in some cases attempt to supplant, the functions of the regular or traditional courts.

Of these special courts, the former public tribunals deserve special mention. With the initiation of the 31st December 1981 Revolution, the PNDC established a number of judicial institutions intended to check abuse and corruption within the regular courts. These special courts, called people's courts or public tribunals, were established in August 1982 as a separate system for administering justice alongside the country's regular courts. Their purpose was to regulate the administration of justice to prevent frivolous abuse of court powers and to obtain the truth by concentrating on the facts of the case rather than on questions of law.

The public tribunals, which consisted of the National Public Tribunal, regional public tribunals, and district and community public tribunals, were an attempt to "democratize" the administration of justice by making it possible for the public at large to participate actively in judicial decision making. They were also meant to correct perceived deficiencies of the regular courts, to enhance the general accessibility of law to the common people, to promote social justice, and to provide institutional safeguards that would secure public accountability. The right of appeal against the verdict of the tribunals was not originally provided for until public outcry led to the introduction of appeals procedures in 1984.

Under the PNDC, the public tribunals exercised only criminal jurisdiction. They dealt with three categories of offenses against the state: criminal offenses referred to them by the PNDC government, certain offenses under the country's Criminal Code, and offenses listed in the Public Tribunals Law of 1984. Proceedings of the tribunals were generally public and swift; sentences were frequently harsh and included death by firing squad. Under the Public Tribunals Law of 1984, without prejudice to the appellate system set out in the law itself, no court or other tribunal could question any decision, order, or proceeding of a public tribunal.

The creation of public tribunals and the PNDC's violent attack on lawyers set the PNDC on a collision course with the Ghana Bar Association, which forbade its members to sit on public tribunals. Many of the rulings of the public tribunals were cited by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations as violations of such rights as freedom of the press and habeas corpus. Under the Fourth Republic, the public tribunals were incorporated into the existing court hierarchy.

The Ghanaian court system is a multifaceted organization. The Supreme Court of Ghana, which consists of the chief justice and four other justices, is the final court of appeal and has jurisdiction over matters relating to the enforcement or the interpretation of constitutional law. The Court of Appeal, which includes the chief justice and not fewer than five other judges, has jurisdiction to hear and to determine appeals from any judgment, decree, or High Court of Justice order. The High Court of Justice, which consists of the chief justice and not fewer than twelve other justices, has jurisdiction in all matters, civil and criminal, other than those involving treason.

Before mid-1993, lower courts consisted of circuit courts, which had jurisdiction in civil matters and in all criminal cases except offenses in which the maximum punishment was death or the offense was treason; district or magistrate courts with jurisdiction over civil suits and criminal cases except firstdegree felonies; and juvenile courts, empowered to hear charges against persons under seventeen years of age. In 1982 the PNDC created a parallel hierarchy of special courts called public tribunals, which exercised only criminal jurisdiction, including some offenses under the Criminal Code. Members of the public tribunals and their panels were mostly lay people who sat with lawyers. Proceedings were often swift and could result in death sentences. There were no provisions for appeals until 1984, when the PNDC established the National Public Tribunal, which consisted of three to five members, to receive appeals from lower tribunals. Its decisions, however, were final and could not be appealed. In 1982 a five- to seven-member Special Military Tribunal was also established to handle crimes committed by military personnel.

In July 1993, the Parliament of the Fourth Republic incorporated the public tribunals into the existing lower courts system, except for the National Public Tribunal, which was abolished. A new hierarchy of lower courts was established consisting of community tribunals, circuit tribunals, and regional tribunals. The tribunals have original jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases, and decisions can be appealed through higher courts. In late 1994, indications were that the new tribunals had not yet begun to function in many parts of the country, at least partly for lack of funds.

Presently, the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, in practice the judiciary appears to be subject on occasion to executive influence. The Constitution mandates Superior Courts of Judicature consisting of the High Court (of Judicature) and Regional Tribunals, the High Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court. The Constitution allows the Government to nominate any number beyond a minimum of nine members to the Supreme Court; confirmation is the responsibility of Parliament. The Chief Justice is empowered to impanel the justices of his choice to hear cases. These provisions, along with a debilitating lack of resources, have called into question the court's role as a balance to the power of the executive branch and contributed to the perception that the judiciary occasionally is subject to executive influence. The integrity of the legal system is compromised by a severe lack of financial, human, and material resources. There were no official charges of corruption on the part of judges; however, in September 1999, a privately owned paper published an alleged report by the Serious Fraud Office that found evidence of malpractice in the awarding of contracts by the judicial service. The Government had not responded to the report by year's end.

The Constitution establishes two basic levels of courts: superior and lower. The superior courts include the Supreme Court, the Appeals Court, the High Court, and regional tribunals. In March the Acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court inaugurated two Fast Track Courts, a division of the High Court of Judicature, intended to try cases to conclusion within 6 months. The Fast Track Courts are authorized to hear cases involving banks and investors, human rights, electoral petitions, government revenue, prerogative writs, defamation, specified commercial and industrial cases, and criminal cases involving substantial public money or are a matter of extreme public importance. In the first 4 months of operation, 76 cases were filed before the Fast Track Court, 56 of them civil and 2 criminal; 13 were completed. The Government announced plans to establish Fast Track Courts throughout the country. Parliament may establish lower courts or tribunals by decree. The CHRAJ provides a forum to which citizens with grievances against government agencies or private companies can bring cases for mediation and settlement.

In June and September, 2001, following calls from the Ghana Bar Association and other legal organizations, the Attorney General stated that the Government would move to abolish Community Tribunals, which are run by appointed panels and police, and replace them with magistrate courts.

Legal safeguards are based on British legal procedures. Defendants are presumed innocent, trials are public, and defendants have a right to be present, to be represented by an attorney (at public expense if necessary), and to cross-examine witnesses. In practice the authorities generally respect these safeguards.

In July, 2001, Parliament repealed the Criminal Libel and Seditious Laws through an amendment to the Criminal Code. According to the Amendment, all prosecutions instituted under the repealed laws pending before any court or tribunal were discharged.

The law gives village and other traditional chiefs power to mediate local matters and enforce customary tribal laws dealing with such matters as divorce, child custody, and property disputes. However, a number of laws passed during the PNDC era (1981-92), as well as the 1992 Constitution, have eroded steadily the authority of traditional rulers and vested it in civil institutions, such as courts and district assemblies.


There was no prison system in traditional Ghanaian society. In the mid-nineteenth century, the British council of merchants established a network of harsh prisons in forts such as Cape Coast Castle. By 1850 four such prisons could hold up to 129 prisoners. Convicts usually worked on road gangs. The Prisons Ordinance of 1860 outlined regulations for the safe-keeping of prisoners. Later ordinances further defined the nature of the colony's prison regimen, or "separate system," which required solitary confinement by night, penal labor, and a minimum diet. By the early 1900s, British colonial officials administered the country's prisons and employed Europeans to work as guards in the prisons. After World War II, Ghanaians gradually replaced these individuals. By 1962 Ghanaians staffed all positions in the prison system.

Under Nkrumah's regime, the government showed little concern for reform and modernization of the penal system. After Nkrumah's overthrow, the National Liberation Council (NLC) authorized a civilian commission to investigate the prison system and to make recommendations for improvements. The commission's report, issued in 1968, revealed numerous problems. Of the country's twenty-nine prisons, nine were judged unfit for human habitation, two were suitable only for police lockups, and thirteen were appropriate only for short-term detainment. Because of corruption and incompetence, however, the NLC failed to act upon the commission's recommendations. As a result, prison conditions have continued to be substandard, with poor ventilation, sanitation, and foodpreparation facilities.

Ministerial responsibility for the prison system has shifted periodically since independence, but the operation of prisons is fixed by statute and is divided into adult and juvenile correction. The former is governed by the Prisons Ordinance, which outlines rules for prison operation and treatment of prisoners. The constitution of 1969 established a Prison Service, the director of which is appointed by the chief executive and is responsible to the minister of interior. The Criminal Procedure Code determines procedures for handling young offenders.

The Prisons Service Board formulates prison policy and regulations. The board consists of a Public Services Commission member as chairman, the prison services director, a medical officer of the Ghana Medical Association, a representative of the attorney general, the principal secretary of the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare, and three other appointed members, one of whom must be a woman and two of whom must be representatives of religious organizations.

To ensure the welfare and the proper treatment of prisoners, the constitution requires the Prisons Service Board to make regulations for the review of prison conditions at intervals of not less than two years. Reports of unjustified treatment of prisoners and recommendations for reform measures are required of the board.

The prisons service is a career establishment with a promotion system based on training and merit; its members have retirement privileges similar to those of other public services. Prisons service standards require one staff member for every three prisoners, but the ratio in many institutions has risen to one to five or more.

Although understaffing has been a long-standing problem, the quality of prison officers and guards has improved over the years. Women are included in both categories. Although recruited from all over the country, prison personnel largely come from the Ewe and Ga ethnic groups. The prisons service maintains a training school and depot at Mamobi, near Accra. This facility offers a six-month training course for senior staff members, special courses for matrons, and preparatory courses for promotion examinations.

The Prisons Service Board also administers the country's prisons. As 1992, the most recent year for which data was available, the prison system consisted of twenty-seven institutions, including six central prisons for men at Accra (Ussher Fort and James Fort), Sekondi, Kumasi, Tamale, and Nsawam; two for women at Ekuasi near Sekondi and at Ho; fifteen local prisons sited throughout the country, six of which have annexes for women; and two open prisons, one at James Camp near Accra, and the other at Ankaful near Cape Coast. About 70 percent of commitments are for less than six months. Outside the criminal justice system, the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare operates probation homes in Accra and Jakobu Ashanti for boys and in Kumasi for girls; and detention centers in Accra, Sekondi, Cape Coast, and Kumasi handle juveniles of both sexes.

Persons convicted and sentenced to a period of police supervision (parole) rather than imprisonment are subject to a licensing arrangement. Violations of the license terms are punishable by one-year imprisonment. Upon convicting an offender of any age, a court may release that individual on probation for six months to three years. Failure to comply with the terms of the probation can result in the probationer's having to serve the sentence for the original offense. Probation has been used mainly for young persons.

Currently, prisons in most cases are maintained very poorly and conditions are harsh; 106 inmates died of various diseases in the country's prisons in 2000. However, according to the CHRAJ Year 2000 Inspection Report, which was not released publicly by year's end, 2001, prison conditions have improved over previous years. The Director General of Prisons has described the prisons as overcrowded and underfinanced and has stated publicly the need to improve living conditions for the prisoners. Three of the country's largest facilities, which were intended to hold 1,600 inmates, currently hold approximately 3,800. The Ghana Prisons Service 2000 Annual Report stated that the average number of prisoners in lock-up on a monthly basis was 9,507, an increase of 3.5 percent from 1999. Bedding was available for only 30 percent of the inmates, and there was no funding for clothes. Medical facilities are inadequate and the prisons supply only the most basic medicines. Overcrowding contributed to a high prevalence of communicable diseases. In February, 2001, the prisoners' daily food allowance was increased to approximately $.35 (2,500 cedis), bringing the total daily allowance to $.55 (3,900 cedis). In August, 2001 the Director General asked the Government to increase the daily food allowance to at least $.57 (4,000 cedis). Prisoners rely on families or outside organizations for additional food, medicine, and other supplies. In 2000 106 prisoners died in the country's prisons, 5 from malnutrition, 20 from HIV/AIDS, 17 from tuberculosis, 11 from diarrhea or dehydration, and the rest from other illnesses. While the Government has agreed that conditions in the prisons are not acceptable, it has stated that lack of funding prevents further improvements.

Juvenile offenders are supposed to be sent to a dedicated facility; however, this facility is underutilized, and the CHRAJ and the Prisons Service confirmed reports of some children as young as 14 years old housed with the general prison population. Women are housed separately from men; pretrial detainees are housed with convicted prisoners.

The Prisons Service has formed an assessment team to inspect facilities. In April 2000, the Minister of Interior stated that the Prisons Service would recruit 288 persons to increase staff at the prisons and that work would begin by the end of 2000 to upgrade prison and staff accommodations and construct three new prisons; however, no steps were taken to implement these measures by year's end.

The Prison Service Council visited Central and Volta Region prison facilities in early 1999. Following these inspections, the Council suggested that prison authorities adopt a more humane approach to dealing with prisoners. The Council identified the number of remand prisoners due to the courts' inability to hear cases promptly as the greatest problem facing the prison system. Some suspects allegedly plead guilty in order to be sent to prison and leave the unsanitary conditions in the police remand cells. The Council also criticized health hazards (including poor sanitation) and the state of prison structures. In a 1999 speech at a prison officers' graduation ceremony, President Rawlings stated that the Government was considering the introduction of parole, suspended sentences, and community service as a way to alleviate the overcrowding in prisons; however, no steps were taken to implement these measures by year's end.

In April 2000, then-President Rawlings granted amnesty to some 1,000 prisoners based on the recommendations of the Prisons Service Council. Many had served one-third of their sentence, and none had been convicted for rape, robbery, or narcotics. However, a retired military officer from the PNDC era, who had been sentenced to death after being convicted of killing an intruder on his farm, also was released after serving 10 years in prison. The President also convened a medical board to consider early release for 156 seriously ill or aged prisoners. The Government announced no amnesties or pardons during the year 2001.

While the CHRAJ has access to the prisons, the Government resisted granting access to the press. The Government permitted foreign diplomats to visit prisons during the year 2001. Nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) are not given access to prisons on a routine basis.


Violence against women, including rape and domestic violence, remains a significant problem. A 1998 study revealed that particularly in low-income, high-density sections of greater Accra, at least 54 percent of women have been assaulted in recent years. A total of 95 percent of the victims of domestic violence are women, according to data gathered by the FIDA. These abuses usually go unreported and seldom come before the courts. The police tend not to intervene in domestic disputes. However, 1998 legislation doubled the mandatory sentence for rape. The media increasingly report cases of assault and rape. The police administration's Women and Juvenile Unit (WAJU) handles cases involving domestic violence, child abuse, and juvenile offenses. Located in Accra and Kumasi, the WAJU works closely with the Department of Social Welfare, FIDA, and the Legal Aid Board. During the year, the Accra Branch of this unit recorded 658 cases, including 204 defilement cases, 58 rapes, 5 cases of incest, 28 indecent assaults, 232 instances of assault and wife battery, and 9 abductions.

In late 1998, a series of "mysterious" murders of women began to occur in the Mateheko area of Accra. Three of the 20 murders reportedly involved husbands' suspicion of their wives' infidelity. The men subsequently were arrested, but they were not convicted. There were more than 30 murders between 1993 and 2000, which were referred to as "serial murders." Police instituted evening roadblocks throughout Accra in an attempt to catch the murderers. In March 2000, the Ministry of Interior offered a $10,000 reward to any member of the public who provided information leading to the arrest of any of the murderers. In July 2000, a group of seven organizations, including FIDA, Amnesty International, The Ghana Employers Association, and The Association of Business and Professional Women, issued a joint statement reflecting their disappointment at the police's lack of success, and encouraging the Government to seek international help to solve the murders. In December 2000, this group, known as Sisters Keepers, marched peacefully to the Castle and submitted a petition to the President calling for the Minister of Interior and the IGP to resign because of their failure to solve the murders. On May 8, a suspect who police had arrested in February, confessed to eight of the murders. In October the Office of the Attorney General directed that the suspect be charged with murder. He remained in police custody at year's end.

In 1998 Parliament passed legislation that amended the 1960 Criminal Code to provide additional protection for women and children. The legislation added new definitions of sexual offenses and strengthened punishments for others. The provisions of the bill ban the practice of "customary servitude" (known as Trokosi), protect women accused of witchcraft, double the mandatory sentence for rape, raise the age of criminal responsibility from 7 years to 12, criminalize indecent assault and forced marriages, and raise punishments for defilement, incest, and prostitution involving children.

Belief in witchcraft still is strong in many parts of the country. Rural women can be banished by traditional village authorities or their families for suspected witchcraft. Most accused witches are older women, often widows, who are identified by fellow villagers as the cause of difficulties, such as illness, crop failure, or financial misfortune. Many of these banished women go to live in "witchcamps," villages in the north populated by suspected witches. The women do not face formal legal sanction if they return home; however, most fear that they may be beaten or lynched if they return to their villages. In the past, there were reports that forced labor occurred in witchcamps; however, there were no such reports during the year 2001. The law provides protection to alleged witches. In the past, human rights NGO's estimated that the number of occupants of the witches' camp was growing; however, there are no definitive statistics on the number of women living in northern witchcamps, and international and domestic observers estimate that there are fewer than 850 women in the camps. The CHRAJ and human rights NGO's have mounted a campaign to end this traditional practice, but have met with little success. Various organizations provide food, medical care, and other forms of support to the residents of the camp.

In addition to banishment, suspected witches are subject to violence and lynching. For example, in January two elderly women in Komenda, Central Region, were accused of being witches by their nephew and subsequently were abducted and tortured to obtain confessions. One of the women died 2 weeks later. The CHRAJ was investigating the case at year's end.

There are several traditional discriminatory practices that are injurious to the health and development of young girls. In particular female genital mutilation (FGM), which is condemned widely by international health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health, is a serious problem. A 1998 study estimated that between 9 and 12 percent of women have undergone FGM, but some estimates are as high as 30 percent. A Ministry of Health survey conducted between 1995 and 1998 found that FGM is practiced among nearly all the northern sector ethnic groups, up to 86 percent in rural parts of the Upper West and Upper East Regions. A 1998 study reported that 51 percent of all women who had undergone FGM were excised before the age of 1, and 85 percent of total excisions were performed on girls under the age of 15. A 1999 survey indicated that more than 50 percent of the women who had undergone FGM indicated that they disapproved of the practice. Officials at all levels have spoken out against the practice, and local NGO's are making some inroads through their educational campaigns to encourage abandonment of FGM and to retrain practitioners. There were no reports of arrests in the year. There have been seven arrests for the practice of FGM since a 1994 law made FGM a crime. Of those arrested, two offenders have been prosecuted and convicted. In some cases in which FGM is performed, the victims actively seek out practitioners, sometimes without their parents' knowledge, in a quest to become ready for marriage.

Members of the legal community advocate legislation to close loopholes in the FGM law, including extending culpability to family members and others who aid in carrying out FGM and to citizens who commit the crime outside the country's borders. Any person who conceals information about an instance of FGM would be liable. In addition FGM would be banned no matter how medically safe the procedure is made--dispelling a belief by some that FGM is acceptable as long as the girls' health is protected. Traditional chiefs became more outspoken in their opposition to the practice of FGM.


There are frequent reports of teachers sexually assaulting their female students. The girls often are reluctant to report the attacks to their parents, and social pressure often prevents parents from going to the police and other authorities. In April, 2001, a math tutor at Aburi Girl's Secondary School, Eastern Region, fled after being accused of assaulting at least 17 girls. Students reportedly told the school administration, including the headmistress, about the assaults, but they were rebuffed and no action was taken; the teacher has not been arrested. The Ghana Education Service ordered the headmistress on ordered leave while it conducted an investigation. The investigation was pending at year's end 2001.

FGM is performed on girls primarily.

Trokosi, also known as Fiashidi, is a religious practice involving a period of servitude lasting up to 3 years. It is found primarily among the ethnic Ewe group in the Volta Region. A virgin girl, sometimes under the age of 10, but often in her teens, is given by her family to work and be trained in traditional religion at a fetish shrine for a period lasting between several weeks and 3 years as a means of atonement for an allegedly heinous crime committed by a member of the girl's family. In exceptional cases, when a girl of suitable age or status is unavailable, a boy can be offered. The girl, who is known as a Trokosi or a Fiashidi, then becomes the property of the shrine god and the charge of the shrine priest for the duration of her stay. As a charge of the priest, the girl works in the shrine and undergoes instruction in the traditional indigenous religion. In the past, there were reports that the girls were the sexual property of the priests; however, while instances of abuse may occur on a case-by-case basis, there is no evidence that sexual or physical abuse is an ingrained or systematic part of the practice. Shrine priests generally are male, but may be female as well. The practice explicitly forbids a Trokosi or Fiashidi to engage in sexual activity or contact during her atonement period. During that time, she helps with the upkeep of the shrine, which may include working on the shrine's farm, drawing water, and performing other agricultural or household labor. Trokosi may or may not attend school. During the atonement period, most girls do not live in the shrines, which generally are little more than fenced-in huts with small courtyards; many remain with their families or stay with members of the shrine living nearby. The girl's family must provide for the girl's needs during her stay, including food and clothing; however, in some cases families are unable to do so. After she has completed her service to the shrine, the girl's family completes their obligation by providing items, which may include drinks, cloth, money, and sometimes livestock, to the shrine for a final release ritual. After the release ritual, the girl returns to her family and resumes her life, without, in the vast majority of cases, any particular stigma attaching to her status as a former Trokosi shrine participant. Generally the women continue to associate themselves with the shrine, a voluntary association involving return visits for ceremonies. In many instances, when a Trokosi woman dies, years if not decades after she has completed her service and resumed her life in the village, her family is expected to replace her with another young girl, thus continuing the association of the family to the shrine from generation to generation. In very occasional cases, the family abandons the girl or cannot afford the cost of the final rites, in which case she may remain at the shrine indefinitely. She also may leave the shrine and return to her village, with her family's association then sundered with the shrine. Shrines rarely have more than 4 girls serving their atonements at any one time, and there were no more than 100 girls serving their atonement periods at Trokosi shrines throughout the Volta Region at year's end 2001. Trokosi shrines all follow these general practices; however, specific practices, such as the length of indoctrination, the exact nature of the ritual instruction, and the requirements for the release rites, vary from shrine to shrine and district to district.

The law bans ritual servitude in comprehensive legislation to protect women and children's rights. NGO's, such as International Needs, and government agencies, such as the CHRAJ, have been campaigning against Trokosi, for years. The practice has decreased in recent years because other belief systems have gained followers, and fetish priests who die have not been replaced. Reports on the number of women and girls bound to various Trokosi shrines vary; according to some reports, there were more than 2,000 women or girls in Trokosi shrines, but according to other international observers there are no more than 100 girls serving at Trokosi shrines throughout the Volta Region.

Another traditional practice that violates the rights of children is forced childhood marriage, which is illegal. In 2000 the GNCC stated that it was working with the CHRAJ to effect the prosecution of the chief of Mpeasem-Easuakyir, in the Central Region, who coerced a 14-year-old girl into marrying him after he abused and impregnated her. FIDA supported the efforts and emphasized that the marriage violated the Children's Act, which sets the marriageable age at 18, as well as the Criminal Code, which prohibits sex with a child under 16 years of age.

Child prostitution, although illegal, also exists. In 2000 the Eastern regional branch of the Ghana Hairdressers and Beauticians Association announced that it would offer free apprenticeships to 150 street girls in the Eastern Region to equip them with marketable skills.

There were reports that trafficking in children occurred, including children being sold into slavery either for forced labor or sexual exploitation. Child labor also is a problem.


There are no laws that specifically address trafficking in persons, and trafficking in persons is a problem; however, the Government can prosecute traffickers under laws against slavery, prostitution, and underage labor. The country is a source and a destination country for trafficked persons; however, the Government is beginning to acknowledge that trafficking is a problem.

Trafficking is both internal and international, with the majority of trafficking in the country involving children from impoverished rural backgrounds. The most common forms of internal trafficking involves boys from the Northern Region going to work in the fishing communities in the Volta Region or in small mines in the west and girls from the north and east going to the cities of Accra and Kumasi to work as domestic helpers, porters, and assistants to local traders. In the previous year, over 100 boys reportedly were contracted out to Lake Volta fishermen.

Teenage girls from the rural areas also are sent by relatives to work in the cities as housemaids for little remuneration. Often an assurance is given that after several years' service, the housemaid would be sponsored to train in dressmaking or hairdressing. However, often an excuse is found to fire the housemaid before such apprenticeship begins.

Children between the ages of 7 and 17 also are trafficked to and from the neighboring countries of Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, and Nigeria to work as farm workers, laborers, or household help.

Much of the recruitment of children is done with the consent of the parents, who sometimes are given an advance payment or promised regular stipends from the recruiter and are told the children will receive food, shelter, and often some sort of training or education. Some parents sent their children to work for extended family members in urban areas; treatment of children sent to work in relatives' homes varies. Many children are given to professional recruiters, usually women, who place the children with employers in cities. A child in these circumstances usually is paid between $2.80 and $4.20 (20,000 and 30,000 cedis) per month. In many cases, the children never receive the education or vocational training the recruiters promised. Girls may be forced into prostitution and often are sexually abused by their employers.

Women are also trafficked to Western Europe, mostly Germany and the Netherlands. International traffickers promise the women jobs; however, the women often are forced into prostitution once they reach their destination. The women are sent sometimes directly to Europe, while others are trafficked through other countries. Some young women are trafficked to the Middle East, particularly Lebanon, where they work in menial jobs or as domestic help. There also is a growing trade in Nigerian women transiting Ghana on their way to Western Europe and reportedly the Middle East to work in the sex industry. Traffickers in person from other countries reportedly used Accra as a transit point to Europe and reportedly the Middle East. There is reportedly some trafficking in persons from Burkina Faso, mostly transiting Ghana on the way to Cote d'Ivoire.

The law, which defines the rights of children and codifies the law in areas such as child custody, health, and education, does not address specifically trafficking. The country is a signatory of ILO Convention 182 and various ministries were working with the ILO and NGO's to address trafficking. In February the Ministry of Manpower Development and Employment, in conjunction with ILO/IPEC, issued a "National Plan of Action for the Elimination of Child Labor in Ghana."

Law enforcement authorities are not trained or given resources to deal with the problem. Law enforcement officials also have a difficult time identifying persons who are being trafficked because of the fluid nature of family relations in the country. For example, a friend often is called a "cousin," and an older woman an "aunt," even if there is no blood relation.


Ghana continues to be among the most aggressive countries in Africa in the fight against drug abuse and illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. The Narcotics Control Board (NCB) has focused on enforcement and control measures; education, prevention, and treatment measures; rehabilitation and social re-integration. Ghana is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

The cannabis plant is known to grow countrywide in Ghana, if cultivated with care. It is cultivated, on average, on half-acre plots, or sometimes planted among crops in vegetable and staple food farms. Cannabis cultivation is always clandestine and the extent of production cannot be easily determined. However, in November 1997 almost three tons of cannabis originating in Ghana was intercepted in Germany by the customs authority there. Ghanaian cannabis is not thought to reach the U.S. in significant quantities, and we have no evidence that cultivation of cannabis in Ghana is in excess of 5,000 hectares. Cocaine and heroin continue to transit Ghana from South America and Southeast and Southwest Asia. Ghanaian authorities have seized an increasing amount of narcotic drugs entering the country South America via South Africa. Over the years, these transit shipments have developed a spill-over effect on the Ghanaian population, which has created a domestic consumption problem. Trafficking of cocaine and heroin through the Kotoka International Airport in Accra again increased as couriers began attempting new methods such as concealing substances in televisions, radios and automobile tires. Likewise, trafficking continues to rise at the western and eastern borders, both at Elubo at the border with Cote d'Ivoire and Aflao at the border with Togo. With Nigerians trafficking cocaine and heroin through the Republic of Benin and Togo largely unhindered, Ghana is likely to become significant in terms of transit trafficking through the Aflao and the Elubo border points. Further, the Ghanaian government has expressed concern that as enforcement measures against traffickers increase in Nigeria, many Nigerian traffickers are establishing safehavens and operations in Ghana.

With respect to chemical controls, the Ghanian Food and Drug Board and Ghana's Environmental Protection Agency issue import licenses for precursor chemicals and also monitor their use. The EPA also has regulations that require the keeping of records and reporting on chemicals by important end-users. The NCB has overall responsibility to make these records available to USG law enforcement authorities.


Internet research assisted by Marta Y. Henson

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Dr. Robert Winslow
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