By Seth Eyiah.
An appeal has been made to the Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Joseph Whittal, to let the commission pay regular and unannounced visits to the country’s prisons and cells to know at first hand the human rights abuses and inhumane treatment being meted out to vagrants by the police and the judiciary.
He said many poor people are languishing in prisons custody and police cells for their inability to pay court fines for minor offences.
The Executive Director of Crime Check Foundation (CCF), Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng, made the appeal when he led a delegation from CCF and Open Society Initiative in West Africa, OSIWA, paid a courtesy call on him at his office in Accra.
He solicited for collaboration with CHRAJ to engage in sustained advocacy for the passage of the Non-Custodial Sentencing Bill into law and also for the review of the bye-laws of the assemblies which criminalises poverty.
The courtesy call on the Commissioner of CHRAJ forms part of consultations with ‘justice sector institutions’ to drum home the need to amend or review some of the vagrancy laws, especially the bye-laws of the District Assemblies and the need to expedite action on the passage of the Non-Custodial Sentencing Bill, into law.
Executive Director of Crime Check Foundation, Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng, said it is a dent on the democratic credentials of the country and champion of freedom and justice to still keep some of these laws on the statute books.
The Commissioner of CHRAJ, Joseph Whittal, was worried that people are being thrown into prisons or being held in custody unnecessarily because of the existence of some vagrant laws on the statute books.
He was happy that the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame is working feverishly on some of these laws, including the Non-Custodial Sentencing Bill for Cabinet’s approval before being sent to Parliament for passage into law.
Crime Check Foundation (CCF), and Open Society Initiative for West Africa, are working together on a project dubbed “Decriminalising Vagrancy Laws and Advocacy Project” to create an enabling environment for vagrants to know, claim and exercise their rights and to end criminalisation of poverty and homelessness in Ghana.