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Friday, August 7, 2009

CHRAJ Boss: Shoot to kill justified if...

Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Mr Francis Emile Short
Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Mr Francis Emile Short

The Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Mr Francis Emile Short, has stated that the police are entitled, in self defence, to shoot to kill armed robbers when the armed robbers engage them in shoot-outs.

"In such circumstances, the police are entitled to use as much force as is necessary in self defence, even to shoot to kill," he stated.

Mr Short was, however, quick to add that where the lives of policemen were not in danger, such as in instances when the armed robbers surrendered or laid down their weapons, the police were not supposed to shoot to kill.

In recent times the police have become ruthless in their fight against armed robbery and violent crime in a shoot-to-kill approach, gunning down about a dozen armed robbers in different operations across the country.

While a section of the public has applauded the police for their strong-arm tactics against armed robbers, some human rights activists are not enthused by the approach of the police, urging them to be circumspect in the exercise of their power of force of arms.

Making his first public pronouncement yesterday in an exclusive interview with theDaily Graphic since resuming office last Monday after five years leave of absence, the CHRAJ boss said the approach of the police as to whether or not to shoot to kill armed robbers depended on the situation they were confronted with at any given time.

Mr Short took a leave of absence in March 2004 following his election by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) to serve as a temporary judge with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda which was set up by the UN in 1 995 to prosecute persons responsible for the commission of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Observing Ghana from Arusha, Tanzania, where the tribunal was based, he said reports reaching him indicated that Ghana had made a lot of progress in promoting good governance and democracy based on which US President, Barack Obama chose the country for his maiden visit as President to sub-Saharan Africa.

He, however, noted some human rights challenges, such as remand prisoners who had been in long custody without trial, domestic violence, women's rights and traditional practices, which he intended to tackle in the days ahead.

Mr Short made reference to a media publication about a suspect who had been remanded in the Nsawam Prison for 10 years without trial.

He said the commission was to undertake investigations at prisons to take inventory of all prisoners who had been remanded without trial, after which it would liaise with the Attorney-General's Department and the Ghana Prisons Service to find a way of addressing the problem.

He said he would ensure that CHRAJ continued its annual inspection of detention facilities in order to draw the attention of the relevant authorities to unsatisfactory conditions in accommodation, nutrition, health care and sanitation.

On domestic violence, he said two years after the passage of the Domestic Violence Law, the practice was on the rise, according to a recent report.

"There is the need to sensitise the public to the negative effects of domestic violence, the emotional and psychological trauma, victims' experiences and their effect on our economic and social development. We need to develop more effective strategies to address the menace of domestic violence," he said.

With respect to Women's rights and traditional practices, Mr Short said it was regrettable that 'trokosi' was still being practised in a number of communities, even after a law had been passed to criminalise the practice.

"There has not been a single prosecution and the victims, who are women •and children, continue to experience violation to their right to personal liberty, freedom of association, right to education, to mention a few," he remarked.

The soft-spoken CHRAJ boss said one area of his focus would be the fight against corruption and went on to declare his full support for the review of the asset declaration regime to make the declarations public.

"I also advocate that public officers should be required to declare the assets of their spouses and children. A false declaration wilfully or knowingly made will then be made a criminal offence. Such a change will definitely enhance the fight against corruption," he said.

Mr Short declined to make an assessment of the human rights credentials of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) seven months after taking office, explaining that it was too early to carry out such an examination.

He also declined to comment on allegations of human rights violations levelled against operatives of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) in the discharge of their functions because of the possibility of the affected persons filing complaints with the commission.

Source: Daily Guide/Ghana

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