FIRST VISIT TO GHANA BY THE UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON TORTURE
5 November 2013
GENEVA (5 November 2013) – Independent human rights expert Juan E. Méndez will visit Ghana from 7 to 14 November 2013 to assess the situation and identify challenges regarding torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the country.
“I will engage with decision-makers and key actors on various aspects relating to my mandate, from legislative amendments to the criminal law, including the definition of torture, to encouraging the establishment of a national mechanism for the prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” Mr. Méndez said. The Special Rapporteur will also examine prisoners’ rights and conditions of detention, in particular for those spending years in prison either awaiting trial or serving lengthy sentences.
“It is my first visit to sub-Saharan Africa and I am really looking forward to engaging in a meaningful dialogue with the Ghanaian authorities. Ghana, a regional leader, has already welcomed a number of visits by UN experts on a broad spectrum of human rights issues. This can have a positive ripple effect on neighbouring States,” Mr. Méndez said.
“My ultimate task”, he stressed, “is to engage in a constructive manner with key decision makers and leaders in civil society to help the authorities uphold the rule of law, promote accountability regarding allegations of torture and ill-treatment, fulfill the right of reparations for victims, and to ensure that alleged perpetrators are held responsible in conformity with international law.”
“I hope that my visit can assist the Government in copying with some of the challenges it faces regarding these issues and in finding solutions that ensure the promotion of human rights and dignity of all persons.”
The United Nations expert is making it a priority to visit psychiatric centres and prayer camps to examine the treatment and living conditions of those with mental disabilities. The Special Rapporteur will also visit other places of detention within the criminal justice system such as police stations, interrogation centres, prisons, juvenile and women’s facilities. He will also examine allegations of abuse of other vulnerable persons, in particular women and children.
The Special Rapporteur, who visits Ghana at the invitation of the Government, will meet with relevant authorities, the judiciary, national human rights institutions, civil society, international and regional organisations, victims and their families. The Special Rapporteur intends to visit the Greater Accra, Central and Ashanti regions.
Mr. Méndez will share his preliminary comments and recommendations at a press conference to be held on Thursday 14 November 2013, at 15:00, at the World Bank Office (Dawadawa Conference Room). The World Bank is located on the Independence Avenue, Accra (by the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons). The Special Rapporteur will present a final report to the Human Rights Council in March 2014.
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur covers all countries, irrespective of whether a State has ratified the Convention* against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Ghana ratified the Convention in 2000 but has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture.
Juan E. Méndez (Argentina) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on 1 November 2010. He is independent from any government and serves in his individual capacity. Mr. Méndez has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights, and has a long and distinguished record of advocacy throughout the Americas. He is currently a Professor of Law at the American University – Washington College of Law and Co-Chair of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association. Mr. Méndez has previously served as the President of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) until 2009, and was the UN Secretary-General Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide from 2004 to 2007, as well as an advisor on crime prevention to the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court, between 2009 and 2010.
*Check the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cat.htm
Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/torture/rapporteur/index.htm
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