Gifty Amofa/Rihana Adam, GNA
Accra, Dec. 4, GNA - The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), a Non-Governmental Organisation for the promotion of human rights, has launched a campaign to decriminalise petty offences in Ghana.
It defines petty offences as minor offences which must be punishable by warning, community service, low value fines or short term of imprisonment as a result of failure to pay the fine.
Ms Mina Mensah, Africa Regional Coordinator for CHRI, said hawking, begging, failure to pay debts, loitering, being a nuisance and disobedience to parents, by-laws aimed at controlling nuisances and offences committed by motor riding amongst others as petty offences.
She said those offences were inconsistent with the African Charter on the right to equality and non-discrimination, adding that Ghana would be breaching a lot of international treaties it had signed on to if it continues to apply the law on those offences.
The Regional Coordinator said certain offences if criminalised would be abusing the rights of the vulnerable as well as deepen poverty.
She said decriminalising petty offences would help to decongest the overcrowded prisons and save the public purse which is used to feed the inmates.
The launch, which was done in collaboration with Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), was held under the theme: “Decriminalising poverty; Advocating for reform od petty offences in Ghana”.
Professor Edward Kofi Quashigah, the Dean of the School of Law at the University of Ghana, Legon and Chair for the occasion, said decriminalising petty offences was not only about Ghana but the world, not only human rights issues but governance.
He said poverty made people commit petty offences, stating that the poor and marginalised are affected most by laws which punished petty crime offenders.
Professor Quarshigah said poverty would deepen in their families when incarcerated, especially when they were the bread winners in their families, coupled with health, sanitation and feeding problems at the prisons.
He said the launch would result in change to address the push for the decriminalisation.
Dr Isaac Annan, Director for Human Rights, CHRAJ, said the institution would continue to deepening the advocacy with other stakeholders such as the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection to protect the rights of the vulnerable.
Mrs Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, Director of Public Prosecution of the Attorney General’s Department, urged stakeholders to ensure that out-dated laws, particularly those made by the colonial masters were removed or changed to suit the needs of the society.
They should educate the populace (marginalised) of their civil and human rights, thus, right to justice and legal representation.