Ghana's prisons "inhuman, cruel"

2013-11-15 07:52


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Accra - Squalid conditions, poor food and overcrowding in Ghana's prisons amount to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment", a UN special representative said on Thursday.

The comments by Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, came in the wake of a Human Rights Watch report released last year that criticised mental health care in Ghana for its reliance on forced confinement in harsh conditions.

During his six-day trip, Mendez visited prisons, mental hospitals and "prayer camps" around the country of 25 million.

"The overcrowding in some of the places that we visited is particularly severe," said Mendez, an Argentinian human rights lawyer who himself was subjected to torture in his own country during the 1970s.

"If there is inadequate food, if there is inadequate medical treatment, if there are unsanitary conditions, those are by definition cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" and in violation of the UN Convention Against Torture, which Ghana has ratified, he added.

According to government figures, Ghana's prisons were hugely overcrowded, but Mendez believes the number may be higher.

Mendez, known for his work on behalf of political prisoners, said he noticed a reliance by prison authorities on a system where inmates known as "black coats" were singled out to whip other alleged stubborn colleagues with canes.

"We were dismayed to see that they have canes...we didn't actually see any discipline, but we did see them brandishing their canes and threatening any inmates."

Ghana’s international reputation

Mendez also criticised the quality of mental health care in Ghana, both at hospitals and in spiritual healing centres known as "prayer camps".

He said a psychiatric hospital in capital Accra did not have enough drugs to treat patients and was improperly using controversial electroconvulsive therapy.

"It is not used as a last resort, it is not clear that it is used with clear and informed consent of the patient, and it is used with insufficient anaesthetic," Mendez said.

At "prayer camps" located in rural areas of Ghana, he said people were shackled to trees or inside rooms, findings that aligned with last year's HRW report. 

He plans to release a report in February outlining his findings in the west African nation.

Although his report which will make recommendations that are non-binding, it could harm Ghana's international reputation.

Ghana is the world's second-largest producer of cocoa and Africa's second-largest producer of gold.

Read more on:    un  |  human rights watch  |  ghana  |  west africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.