Both international and domestic law oblige governments to protect their citizens
from human rights violations and abuses, and to provide redress for those who suffer such violations and abuses. Governments also have a duty to combat impunity by, among other measures, imposing sanctions against those who infringe the fundamental human rights of others, and eradicating the conditions that enable and produce the violations and abuses.
1.1.2 Throughout the contemporary world, Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs) have emerged as a critical part of the responses of states, especially those undergoing political transition, to serious acts of human rights violations and impunity occasioned by a history of prolonged conflicts and antagonisms. TRCs are official bodies established to investigate and document past human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, and to chart a path for achieving healing, peace and national reconciliation.
1.1.3 Since the attainment of political Independence from British rule on 6th March, 1957, Ghana has experienced four successful military coups d’état and numerous attempted coups. All these events have occasioned extensive human rights violations and abuses. The unconstitutional governments resulting from military coups provided a platform for the serious and sustained violation of the rights of many citizens and foreigners resident in Ghana. The fundamental human rights and freedoms of many people were also violated or abused during periods of constitutional rule.
1.1.4 Most of these violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law have not been investigated, officially acknowledged and redressed. As a result, considerable pain, anguish, bitterness and divisions exist in Ghanaian society.
1.1.5 The establishment of the National Reconciliation Commission (the “Commission”) came in the wake of Ghana’s historic elections of December 2000, which witnessed, for the first time in the country’s post-Independence history, a change of constitutionally-elected government effected not by violent means but by popular vote. That event was a clear testimony to the strong desire of Ghanaians to live under conditions of democratic accountability and to forge a society firmly grounded in respect for human rights and the rule of law. The consolidation of democracy and the promotion of constitutional rule and
a culture of respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms, as enshrined in Chapter Five of the Constitution of Ghana, 1992, demand that Ghana should deal with its history of egregious human rights violations that risk compromising the forward march of democracy and peace in the country. Building a future for Ghana that is united, secure, peaceful and humane also demands providing redress, including healing, for those who were hurt in the past by serious human rights violations and abuses in the nature of killings, abductions, disappearances, torture, detentions, seizure of property and ill-treatment. The Commission was seen by the Ghana Parliament as a vehicle to facilitate the attainment of these goals.
1.1.6 This Volume of the Report of the National Reconciliation Commission (the “Report”), being the Executive Summary of the Full Report, provides:
1. an introduction to the establishment, membership, objectives, mandate, functions and powers of the Commission;
2. an overview of the activities, methods and values of the Commission;
3. a discussion of the historical context of human rights violations and abuses in Ghana;
4. a summary of the role of several state institutions (such as the security agencies and the judiciary) and civil society organizations (such as the media, religious bodies, chiefs, workers and student movements) in promoting or resisting human rights violations and abuses in Ghana;
5. a statistical profile of the petitions received by the Commission;
6. an overview of the key findings made in respect of the petitions;
7. an outline of the principles and recommendations for redressing the violations and abuses suffered by petitioners;
8. recommendations for institutional reforms; and
9. recommendations in respect of the establishment of a Reparations and Rehabilitation Fund.
1.2.1 In December 2001, the Parliament of Ghana passed an Act to establish the Commission. The Act, known as the National Reconciliation Commission Act, 2002, (Act 611) (herein referred to as Act 611), came into force on 11th January, 2002, when it was gazetted. The goal of the Commission, as expressed in the Long Title to Act 611, was to
seek and promote national reconciliation among the people of this country by recommending appropriate redress for persons who have suffered any injury, hurt, damage, grievance or who have in any other manner been adversely affected by violations and abuses of their human rights arising from activities or inactivities of public institutions and persons holding public office.
1.2.2 Thus, the work of the Commission is a major development imperative for Ghana, a country engaged in fostering a culture of respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms, the rule of law, the consolidation and enhancement of democracy, and the strengthening of its governance institutions.
1.2.0 APPOINTMENT AND MEMBERSHIP
1.3.1 Members of the Commission were appointed by the President in consultation with the Council of State – a non-partisan constitutional body of eminent Ghanaians that advises the President on appointments to public office and other matters prescribed by the Constitution. This was in keeping with the provisions of Section 2(2) of Act 611. In appointing the members, the President was required by Section 2(3) of the Act to have regard to the integrity, sense of fairness and ability of the persons to achieve the object of national reconciliation as outlined in Section 3 of Act 611.
1.3.2 The Commission comprised the following nine Ghanaians:
1. Mr. Justice Kweku Etrew Amua-Sekyi, a retired Supreme Court Judge (Chairman);
2. Most Reverend Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle, Catholic Bishop of Koforidua;
3. Maulvi Abdul Wahab Bin Adam, Ameer (Head) and Missionary-in-Charge, Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, Ghana;
4. Professor Florence Abena Dolphyne, former Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana;
5. Lt-Gen Emmanuel Alexander Erskine, First Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL);
6. Dr. (Mrs.) Sylvia Awo Mansah Boye, former Registrar of The West African Examinations Council;
7. Mr. Christian Appiah Agyei, former Secretary-General, Trades Union Congress (Ghana);
8. Uborr Dalafu Labal II, Paramount Chief of Sanguli Traditional Area, Northern Region; and
9. Professor Henrietta Joy Abena Nyarko Mensa-Bonsu, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ghana.
1.4.1 The Commission was inaugurated by the President on 6th May, 2002 – within two weeks of the appointment of its members as required by the provisions of Section 5(1) of Act 611. The President administered the Oath of Secrecy and the Oath of Office to the Chairman and members of the Commission as required by the Second Schedule to the Constitution of Ghana, 1992.
1.5 APPOINTMENT OF EXECUTIVE SECRETARY
1.5.1 The President appointed Dr. Kenneth Agyemang Attafuah, the Director of Public Education and Anti-Corruption at the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, as the Executive Secretary of the Commission.
1.6.1 The object of the Commission, as stated in Section 3(1) of Act 611, was to “seek and promote national reconciliation among the people of [Ghana]”. This object was to be pursued in respect of human rights violations and abuses that occurred during periods of unconstitutional government, namely:
(i) 24th February, 1966 to 21st August, 1969;
(ii) 13th January, 1972 to 23rd September, 1979; and
(iii) 31st December, 1981 to 6th January, 1993.
Apart from the specified periods, Section 3(2) of the Act also empowered the Commission, on application by any person, to pursue the objective of the Commission “in respect of any other period between 6th March, 1957 and 6th January, 1993”. In practice, the Commission encouraged, received and considered petitions alleging human rights violations and abuses that occurred during both constitutional and unconstitutional governments.
1.6.2 The mandate of the Commission was to help reconcile the people of Ghana by finding out the truth about past human rights violations and abuses and helping the victims of those violations and abuses to deal with their pain, and to move on with their lives. The mandate also included helping the perpetrators of such violations and abuses to come to terms with their past, and seek forgiveness. Section 20(2)(e) and (g) of Act 611 also required the Commission to recommend reforms and measures to prevent and avoid the repetition of such violations and abuses and to promote healing and achieve national reconciliation.
1.6.3 The objective of seeking and promoting national reconciliation was to be achieved through two principal means. First, the Commission was required to
establish an accurate, complete and historical record of human rights violations and abuses inflicted on persons by public institutions and holders of public office or persons who claimed to have acted on behalf of the State during periods of unconstitutional government.
1.6.4 Second, the law required the Commission to recommend to the President appropriate measures to assuage the pain of, and make reparation to, those whose human rights were violated or abused during the mandate. The Commission was also required to recommend measures to prevent such occurrences in future.
1.7.1 To achieve its goal, Section 4 of Act 611 mandated the Commission to:
1. investigate violations and abuses of human rights relating to killings, abductions, disappearances, detentions, torture, ill-treatment and seizure of properties suffered by any person within the specified periods;
2. investigate the context in which and the causes and circumstances under which the violations and abuses occurred and identify the individuals, public institutions, bodies, organizations, public office holders or persons purporting to have acted on behalf of any public body responsible for or involved in the violations and abuses;
3. identify and specify the victims of the violations and abuses and make appropriate recommendations for redress;
4. investigate and determine whether or not the violations and abuses were deliberately planned and executed by the State or any public institutions, bodies, organizations, public office holders or persons purporting to have acted on behalf of the State;
5. conduct investigations relevant to its work and seek the assistance of the police and any public or private institution, body or person for the purposes of any investigations;
6. investigate any other matters which it considers require investigation in order to promote and achieve national reconciliation; and
7. educate the public and give sufficient publicity to its work so as to encourage the public to contribute positively to the achievement of the object of the Commission.
22.214.171.124 By virtue of the provisions of Sections 10 and 11 of Act 611, the Commission had broad powers of investigation. For example, it could enter any place to conduct an investigation, and remove from any place any item or object that it believed was relevant to its investigations. Under certain restricted conditions, the Commission could search and remove items without a warrant.
126.96.36.199 Specifically, Section 11(1) of Act 611 grants the Commission normal powers of the police with respect to entry and search of premises. It provides as follows:
(1) The Commission shall have the powers of the police for the purpose of entry, search, seizure and removal of any document or article relevant to any investigation under this Act.
(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), the Commission or a person authorized by the Commission may:
(a) with the consent of the occupier of the premises enter, search, seize and remove any document or article; or
(b) where in the opinion of the Commission obtaining a warrant will defeat the purpose of the entry, seizure and removal of any article relevant to the investigations, enter, search, seize and remove the document or article without a warrant except that the warrant shall be obtained within twenty-four hours of the search, seizure and removal.
(3) A document, article or information obtained by the investigation unit shall not be made public unless authorized by the Commission.
188.8.131.52 In conducting its proceedings, the Commission had power under Section 13 of the Act to call witnesses and require them to swear an oath or make an affirmation to tell the truth, and ask them questions while they were under oath or affirmation. The Commission could also compel, by subpoena, any person to appear before it and testify on oath or affirmation, or to produce any document or article. Although the Commission had the powers of a court with regard to production of official documents, it was not a court but a fact-finding body.
1.9.1 Section 8(1) of Act 611 provided that, in the performance of its functions, the Commission would be “independent and not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority”. In addition, Section 8(2) required the members and staff of the Commission to serve impartially and independently and perform the duties of their office in good faith and without fear, favour, bias or prejudice, notwithstanding their personal opinions, preferences or party affiliations.
1.10 STRUCTURE OF THE SECRETARIAT
1.10.1 The Commission established a Secretariat headed by the Executive Secretary. The Secretariat had five Directorates at the Headquarters. They were: Finance and Administration; Investigations and Research; Legal; Public Affairs and Community Liaison; and Counselling and Support Services.
1.10.2 There were also five Zonal Offices located in five Regional Capitals in order to ensure access to the Commission’s services throughout the country. Each Zonal Office was headed by a Zonal Manager. The following were the Zonal Offices:
1. Bolgatanga Zonal Office to serve the Upper East and Upper West Regions;
2. Ho Zonal Office to serve the Volta and Greater Accra Regions;
3. Kumasi Zonal Office to serve the Ashanti and Eastern Regions;
4. Takoradi Zonal Office to serve the Western and Central Regions; and
5. Tamale Zonal Office to serve the Brong Ahafo and Northern Regions.
1.10.3 The Directors and Zonal Managers reported to the Commission through the Executive Secretary, who co-ordinated and supervised their activities. Details of the functions of the Directorates and Zonal Offices, as well as the names of the Directors and Zonal Managers, are outlined in Volume Two, Chapter One, of this report.
1.11 OFFICES OF THE COMMISSION
1.11.1 The Commission commenced its work in May, 2002. It initially conducted its business from temporary offices located at the Independence Square Building in Accra. The Old Parliament House, which was to serve as the permanent offices of the Commission, was then under refurbishment for that purpose. On 13th January, 2003, following the completion of refurbishment, the Commission moved to the Old Parliament House. With the exception of work in its zonal offices and the regional and in-camera hearings, all the business of the Commission took place in the Old Parliament House.
UNDERSTANDING AND GIVING EFFECT TO THE MANDATE
2.0.1 Following its inauguration on 6th May, 2002, the Commission took the opportunity afforded by an orientation session, sponsored by the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) and the New York-based International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), to hold its maiden meeting to explore the scope of its work and to consider a draft administrative framework for its secretariat, as well as a budget proposal for its operations.
2.1 ELEMENTS OF THE MANDATE
2.1.1 The Commission considered the scope of its mandate and agreed that, as expressed in the Long Title of its enabling statute, Act 611, its primary purpose was to “seek and promote national reconciliation” among the people of Ghana. These elements require elaboration.
2.1.2 Seeking National Reconciliation
184.108.40.206 In the Commission’s view, seeking national reconciliation meant pursuing the following sets of activities:
a) educating the public on the purpose, mandate, functions, powers and activities of the Commission;
b) giving prospective petitioners an opportunity to make a statement outlining the substance of their claims of human rights violation or abuse;
c) establishing the accuracy of the claims through investigations;
d) offering petitioners an opportunity to tell their story to the Commission;
e) providing healing to victims and perpetrators through counselling and other support services; and
f) recommending appropriate redress for the wrongs found by the Commission to have arisen from the “activities or inactivities of public institutions and persons holding public office” between 6th March, 1957, and 6th January, 1993.
2.1.3 Promoting National Reconciliation
220.127.116.11 The Act imposed a statutory mandate on the Commission to promote national reconciliation. This promotional mandate implies that where the Commission found evidence of such efforts and considered them viable, it had an obligation to further or enhance them. The object of these promotional strategies was to broaden the social and political space for reconciliation throughout the country.
2.2. ACTIVITIES, VALUES AND METHODS
2.2.1 The Commission construed its mandate broadly to mean that, in order to achieve national reconciliation, it was required to undertake three specific activities, in addition to any other methodological approaches it might pursue, namely, to:
1. establish accurate, complete and historical record of violations and abuses of human rights inflicted on persons by public institutions and holders of public office or persons who claimed to have acted on behalf of the state during periods of unconstitutional government;
2. recommend appropriate redress for persons who had suffered any injury, hurt, damage, grievance or who had in any other manner been adversely affected by violations and abuses of their human rights; and
3. recommend measures, including institutional reforms, to prevent the re-occurrence of such violations and abuses in future.
2.3.1 The Commission regarded the obligation to establish an “accurate, complete and historical record of violations and abuses of human rights” as the cornerstone of its mandate. Fulfilling this obligation demanded that the Commission should be fair and thorough in its statement-taking, investigations and hearings.
3 The Commission devised two methods for receiving statements from the public. First, it invited prospective petitioners to call at any of its five Zonal Offices throughout the country or at its Headquarters in Accra to complete and sign or thumbprint a standard statement form and to make a written statement detailing their grievances. Such persons were assisted by trained statement-takers who took down their statements in English irrespective of the languages in which the persons gave their statements; the statement-takers were proficient in the local language(s) of the regions for which they were recruited. The statements were then read to the petitioners to verify that the statement-takers had properly captured the narratives of
the statement-makers. Where they were so satisfied, the petitioners appended their signatures or thumb-printed the forms. Second, in some instances, petitioners who were literate in English wrote down their own statements or brought an already prepared statement to the Commission, and then completed and signed a statement form, which was subsequently attached to their written statement. This second option made it possible for petitioners who were resident outside Ghana to write and mail their own statements to the Commission. They then filled out the statement form whenever they visited the Commission, prior to testifying before it.
18.104.22.168 The statement form was designed to elicit information establishing the complete profile of witnesses for statistical purposes.
22.214.171.124 To ensure that no one who wanted to petition the Commission was denied the opportunity simply by virtue of their poverty and or residence in a remote rural area, the Commission embarked on a “mopping-up exercise” with the kind financial and human resource support of the CDD-Ghana. Under this exercise, staff of the Commission and of CDD-Ghana undertook special public outreach, statement-taking and counselling exercises in many rural areas of the country. Through this exercise, many otherwise disadvantaged persons were able to file their petitions.
126.96.36.199 In all the Commission received 4,240 petitions covering killings, abductions, disappearances, torture, sexual abuse, detentions, ill-treatment, seizure of properties, hostage-taking, interference with the right to work and abuse of judicial process.
188.8.131.52 Scope - Mandate Period
184.108.40.206.1 The Commission was specifically required by Act 611 to investigate violations and abuses of human rights relating to “killings, abductions, disappearances, detentions, torture, ill-treatment and seizure of properties” suffered by any person at the hands of “public institutions, public office holders or persons purporting to have acted on behalf of the state…”
220.127.116.11.2 The Act also gave the Commission the discretionary power to investigate and make appropriate recommendations in respect of any petition alleging similar human rights violations, but which allegedly took place during periods of constitutional rule between 6th March, 1957 and 6th January, 1993. In exercise of this discretionary power, the Commission decided that, to further its aims of national reconciliation, it would not make any distinction between petitions alleging human rights violations during periods of constitutional and unconstitutional rule. It accepted complaints relating to the entire mandate period without the need for any special application by petitioners.
18.104.22.168 Scope – Substance Of Violations Or Abuses
22.214.171.124.1 The Commission gave a broad and liberal interpretation to each of the categories of violations and abuses specified in section 4(a) of Act 611. Thus, it was able to receive, investigate and hear petitions alleging human rights violations and abuses founded on subjection to mock executions and forced cannibalism as instances of torture, while under the rubric of ill-treatment, it accepted and processed complaints ranging from dehumanizing treatment to administrative injustice that rose to the level, or met the threshold, of human rights violations. In construing the meaning of the specified violations and abuses, the Commission relied on international human rights law and humanitarian law principles, as well as common law understanding of the specified violations.
126.96.36.199 Establishing The Context, Causes And Circumstances
188.8.131.52.1 Section 4(b) of the Act also charged the Commission to investigate the context, causes and circumstances of the violations and abuses. This meant that the Commission was required to undertake comprehensive investigations that would enable it to uncover the conjunction of factors that underpinned, enabled and accounted for the specified forms of human rights violations and abuses during the relevant historical periods. Thus, the Commission was duty bound to explore and identify the root causes, broad socio-political environment, surrounding circumstances and the precipitating factors, if any, of the violations brought to its attention.
184.108.40.206 Identifying And Specifying Individual And Institutional Perpetrators
220.127.116.11.1 The Commission was further mandated to “identify the individuals, public institutions, bodies, organisations, public office holders or persons purporting to have acted on behalf of any public body responsible for or involved in the violations and abuses”. This explicit statutory requirement on the Commission to specify or pinpoint state responsibility both personal and institutional reflected the anti-impunity thrust of Act 611. Even so, the Commission was required, in accordance with the principles of natural justice, to respect the rights of all alleged perpetrators to fair investigative and hearing processes. These included the right of alleged perpetrators to:
a) be informed in writing of any allegation against them contained in any petition filed with the Commission or in a petitioner’s testimony before the Commission ;
b) make a written statement in response to any such allegation;
c) be assisted by counsel of their choice in preparing such responses;
d) be assisted by counsel of their choice in appearing to cross-examine their accusers; and
e) be led by counsel for the Commission to testify before the Commission, if they so wished.
18.104.22.168.2 Indeed, Act 611 contained several explicit provisions relating to the natural justice rights of alleged perpetrators. For instance, section 17(1) of the Act guaranteed the right of any person “subpoenaed or called before the Commission” to legal representation, while section 17(4) obliged the Commission to inform such persons of their right to legal representation. Further, to ensure that prospective respondents who were indigent were not disadvantaged by their lack of financial capacity to engage the services of a lawyer, section 17(3) of the Act gave the Commission power to appoint counsel for such persons. Specifically, section 17(3) of the Act provided as follows:
The Commission may appoint a lawyer to act on behalf of a person appearing before it if it is satisfied that that person is not financially capable of appointing a lawyer and if it is of the opinion that it is in the interest of justice that that person be represented by a lawyer.
22.214.171.124.3 To this end, the Commission requested for, and obtained from the Ghana Bar Association, a list of lawyers interested in providing legal services to such persons. It made the services of those lawyers available to persons who needed such legal services.
126.96.36.199 Identifying And Specifying Victims
188.8.131.52.1 Under section 4(c) of Act 611, the Commission was required, through its investigations, to “identify and specify the victims of the violations and abuses”. The Commission saw this provision as a reflection of the victim-centred orientation of the Act. Other reflections of this orientation were to be found in the Long Title of the Act, as well as in section 3(1)(b), which required the Commission to make appropriate recommendations to the President for “redress of wrongs” committed.
184.108.40.206.2 Accordingly, the Commission devised procedures that showed sensitivity, primarily, to basic needs of victims as well as other witnesses. These included the following:
1. undertaking public education and sensitization activities in English and in various local languages throughout the country, on the mandate of the Commission, and emphasising the need for all victims of the specified forms of human rights violations and abuses during the relevant periods to come to the Commission and make a statement/petition;
2. inviting, through various media of public education and sensitization – both locally and internationally – all persons with knowledge of human rights
violations and abuses, even where those persons were not the direct victims, to make a statement to the Commission in respect of those violations and abuses they might have heard about, witnessed or observed during the relevant period, whether the events took place at a time of constitutional or unconstitutional government;
3. inviting prospective statement makers to provide such personal particulars of the victim(s) as would assist the Commission in establishing the identity of the victim(s);
4. designing and using a user-friendly standard form for taking witnesses’ statements;
5. giving technical support to petitioners in filing their petitions with the Commission. This took the form of language translation or interpretation services, as well as the taking down of statements of petitioners who could not write in English, or who wished to be assisted for whatever reason, by the Commission’s trained statement takers;
6. providing professional counselling, free of charge, to witnesses who were burdened by the pain of reliving their painful experiences by recounting them;
7. providing counselling and professional medical screening and, where necessary, first aid treatment or other appropriate medical response (including referral services) to all witnesses, particularly petitioners, prior to their testifying before the Commission. Whenever necessary, appropriate follow-up counselling sessions were undertaken or medical referrals made; and
8. refunding the cost of return transportation to witnesses, particularly petitioners, who travelled from long distances to the venue of hearing to testify at the hearings, and who requested such support. The Commission applied the State Transport Company passenger rate where applicable. This facility was made possible through the kind financial support of CDD-Ghana. The Commission, however, did not re-imburse nor offer any financial support to any of the witnesses who travelled from outside Ghana to testify before it.
220.127.116.11 Determining Whether The Violations Were Deliberately Planned
18.104.22.168.1 The Commission was obliged under Section 4(d) of Act 611 to determine whether a human rights violation or abuse was deliberately planned. Where an allegation of human rights violation or abuse was made against any individual, the Commission had a duty to invite the alleged perpetrator or respondent to respond in writing to the allegation. Where the petitioner subsequently testified before the Commission, the Commission was duty bound to give the alleged perpetrator an opportunity to be present at the hearing, provided they had previously submitted a written statement in response to
the allegation, to cross-examine the petitioner under oath or affirmation, and to testify on their own behalf if they so wished.
22.214.171.124.2 In establishing the truth or otherwise of an allegation, the Commission applied the civil standard of proof on a “balance of probabilities”, as opposed to the criminal standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt. This was in consonance with the universally established principle in human rights investigations by quasi-judicial investigative bodies. Where, after considering all the evidence before it, the Commission found it more probable than not that the petition was justified, it was required under section 4(c) of the Act to “make appropriate recommendations for redress”. Section 20(d) also imposed a similar obligation on the Commission, in such a situation, to recommend an “appropriate response to the specific needs of [that] victim or group of victims”. Conversely, where the Commission was persuaded on the above basis that events did not occur as alleged, it was bound to find that the petition was not justified and therefore, to dismiss it.
126.96.36.199.3 Where the Commission, using the above-stated civil standard of proof, found that a human rights violation or abuse had occurred, it had a duty under section 4(d) of the Act to proceed to another level of enquiry, namely, to establish whether or not the violation or abuse was the result of deliberate planning and execution, or a chance occurrence.
188.8.131.52.4 To achieve this end, the Commission, in addition to resorting to traditional investigative techniques, established six special committees of the Commission to examine the role, if any, played by various institutions of state and civil society groups in human rights violations . The Committees invited several key actors during the relevant periods, or persons who were closely acquainted with the workings of the relevant bodies, as well as experts, to testify before it or to submit memoranda as might be appropriate. The findings and recommendations of these special committees, appear in Volume Four of the Report.
184.108.40.206.5 In the Commission’s view, the articulation of this obligation in the statute highlighted Parliament’s conviction that particularly intentional, as opposed to accidental or systemic, acts of human rights violations and abuses must be singled out for special attention, condemnation and prevention.
220.127.116.11 Investigating Any Other Matters Requiring Investigation
18.104.22.168.1 The Commission was also permitted, under section 4(f) of Act 611, to investigate “any other matters” which, in its view, required investigation “in order to promote and achieve national reconciliation”. Pursuant to this mandate, and in the course of investigating a number of petitions it received, the Commission exhumed the remains
of several persons, some of which had been buried in unmarked graves in some parts of the country.
22.214.171.124.2 Following petitions and/or oral testimonies by the families of six persons requesting the Commission to locate, exhume and hand over for fitting burial, in accordance with Ghanaian custom, the remains of their loved ones who were executed in May 1986, the Commission on 1st September, 2003 carried out its first exhumation at Akwasa Cemetery, Mile 11, on the Accra-Cape Coast Road. The six persons were:
1) Godwin Mawuli Kofi Dra Goka;
2) Kyereme Djan;
3) Samuel Boamah Panyin;
4) Samuel Charles Aforo;
5) Yaw Brefo-Berko; and
6) Richard Charles Koomson.
126.96.36.199.3 The families of the six had alleged that their executed loved ones were subjected to severe forms of torture during their arrest, interrogation, trial and incarceration for treason, contrary to established human rights standards and norms, including principles for the treatment of detained persons.
188.8.131.52.4 The exhumation also uncovered the remains of two unknown persons, who were later positively identified as Ahmed Denteh Braimah Kankani and L/Cpl George Badame Doog. The remains of all eight executed persons had been buried in two unmarked graves – three in one grave, and five in the other. They were wrapped in blankets, and had become completely skeletonised.
184.108.40.206.5 A second exhumation was carried out by the Commission at the Aboso Cemetery, near Tarkwa, in the Western Region on 17th May, 2004. This exhumation was pursuant to a request by Peter Boafo who testified in respect of the abduction and subsequent disappearance, in 1979, of his father, also known as Peter Boafo, and his father’s nephew. The exhumation uncovered the remains of five persons buried in two graves at the Aboso cemetery, including that of a female adult and a young male believed to be the remains of the petitioner’s cousin.
220.127.116.11.6 The exhumations of the Tarkwa victims also assisted the Commission in its investigation into the petition of Ebenezer Mends who had alleged that his elder brother had been tortured and then shot by soldiers and his body dumped into a disused mine shaft at Tarkwa.
18.104.22.168.7 Official reports on the two exhumations, provided by the Pathology Department of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, are attached as an Appendix to Volume Two of this report.
22.214.171.124 Petitioners were invited to appear before the Commission to tell their story. In practice, the Commission considered every person who testified before it as a “witness” assisting it in its work, whether the person appeared as a petitioner or an alleged perpetrator, or whether they testified under subpoena or not. For this reason, every witness before the Commission was led in evidence by the Commission’s counsel. The hearings also gave the witnesses an opportunity to unburden themselves and to put the past behind them. It also offered an opportunity for interpersonal reconciliation wherever possible.
2.3.5 Information Services
126.96.36.199 Through its work, the Commission provided petitioners with information about “disappeared” relations. Again through its work, the Commission provided information on the circumstances surrounding the detention and death of some victims, place of burial as well as the identity of some perpetrators.
2.4 PREPARATORY WORK OF THE COMMISSION
2.4.1 Following its inauguration on 6th May, 2002, and prior to the commencement of the statement-taking process on 3rd September of the same year, the Commission undertook the following sets of activities:
1. designed a work plan;
2. determined the equipment and logistics needs of the Commission and designed a procurement policy;
3. organized a national competition for the design of an appropriate logo for the Commission in order to focus the public mind on the concept of reconciliation;
4. composed a prayer for the hearings;
5. recruited staff for its secretariat;
6. established a secretariat comprising five departments and five zonal offices across the country; and
7. designed and implemented a comprehensive training programme to equip the Commissioners and staff with the requisite skills and orientation for the effective performance of their duties .
2.5 WORK OF THE SECRETARIAT
2.5.1 Public Education
188.8.131.52 In furtherance of the requirement in section 4(g) of Act 611, the Commission pursued several educational and sensitization services throughout the country, in order to inform the public on the nature and importance of the national reconciliation effort and to enlist the support of the citizenry for the process. Numerous individuals, media organizations, journalists, religious bodies, chiefs, security services, district assemblies, students, professional bodies, labour groups and other civil society organizations collaborated with the Commission in these efforts.
184.108.40.206 The Commission started taking statements of alleged human rights violations and abuses from the public on 3rd September, 2002. By the end of the statement-taking process, it had received 4,240 petitions from individuals all over the country and abroad.
220.127.116.11 Petitioners came from all walks of life, embracing diverse socio-economic, educational, ethnic, religious and political backgrounds and age groups. A detailed statistical profile and analyses of petitions and petitioner characteristics appear in Volume Three of this Report.
18.104.22.168 Providing counselling support for witnesses was a major activity of the Commission. This helped victims to come to terms with their pain and move on with their lives; it also helped some of the persons who participated in the abuses to come to terms with their experiences and obtain forgiveness and peace of mind. Counselling was provided during the statement-taking period as well as the public and private hearings. Some needy witnesses were followed up at home and family counselling given as needed. Counselling support was also provided for the Commission’s staff to help them deal with the secondary trauma that is often associated with working with traumatized people
2.5.4 Petition Processing Procedures
22.214.171.124 To facilitate its work, the Commission developed a basic procedure for handling petitions – from reception to disposition. The procedure entailed the following steps:
1. a review of the statement by the Senior Statement-Taker who subsequently referred it to the Commission’s Legal Department for a legal opinion, or to
the Investigations Department; the Executive Secretary then made and forwarded his comments on the file to the Commission;
2. Where the complaint was referred to the Investigations Department, the necessary investigation was conducted and an investigation report submitted to the Legal Department for a recommendation on the matter to the Executive Secretary, who, in turn, made a recommendation to the Commission; and.
3. The Commission made the final decision whether or not a petition was ready for hearing.
2.5.5 Criteria For Selecting Cases For Hearing
126.96.36.199 It was the aim of the Commission to hear each and every petition that fell within its jurisdiction. In practice, the Commission was guided by four principles in selecting which cases to hear. These were:
1. the principle of first come, first served;
2. severity of the violation ;
3. lack of need for investigations; and
4. readiness of case for hearing due to timely conclusion of investigations.
188.8.131.52 In practice, several considerations affected the extent to which the Commission applied the above criteria. For instance, on account of the fact that the Commission did not pay the transport fare of any witness resident abroad who testified before it, the Commission reasonably accommodated requests from witnesses for early or delayed hearings where it considered such requests legitimate or reasonable.
2.6 PUBLIC AND IN CAMERA HEARINGS
2.6.1 By virtue of section 12(1) of Act 611 the Commission was required to conduct its hearings in public. However, section 12(1) of Act 611 also granted the Commission the discretionary power to hold in camera or private hearings “for good cause”.
2.6.2 Hearing Procedure
184.108.40.206 Hearings began with the National Reconciliation Commission Prayer. The procedure for the hearings was a standard one. Witnesses were required to swear an oath or affirm in accordance with their religious beliefs. Petitioners were led by the Commission’s counsel to tell their story, including an opportunity to present relevant documentary or other evidence in support of their claim (including calling other witnesses to testify on their behalf), and to indicate what relief they were seeking in order to redress their grievances as a means to promoting healing and reconciliation. This was followed by questioning by members of the Commission for clarification of problem areas in the evidence , as well as an opportunity for the respondents or alleged perpetrators, if present, to cross-examine the petitioners and their witnesses with the assistance of counsel of their choice, if they so wished.
220.127.116.11 The Respondents were then led in evidence by the Commission’s counsel, and re-examined by their own counsel (some of whom had been provided under the Commission’s legal aid scheme) to tell their side of the story to the Commission, if they so wished. Again, the Commission followed the same routine in facilitating healing, forgiveness and reconciliation as appropriate. Alleged perpetrators, who did not wish to adduce evidence on their own behalf, were not compelled to do so, although note was taken of such a stance.
2.6.3 Public Hearings
18.104.22.168 The Commission started its public hearings in the Chamber of the Old Parliament House in Accra on 14th January, 2003. It subsequently conducted hearings in all regional capitals: Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, Tamale in the Northern Region, Takoradi in the Western Region, Ho in the Volta Region, Cape Coast in the Central Region, Sunyani in the Brong-Ahafo Region, Wa in the Upper West Region, Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region, and Koforidua in the Eastern Region.
2.6.4 Private Hearings
22.214.171.124 As pointed out earlier, Act 611 permitted the Commission to conduct some of its hearings in private for “good cause”.
126.96.36.199 In deciding whether or not to hear a witness in camera, the Commission was guided by three general principles in the common law system that govern the
circumstances under which courts and administrative tribunals may hear evidence in camera. These circumstances are as follows:
1. Where the security of the state may be jeopardized (e.g., evidence relating to the policing strategies used by the security agencies in apprehending persons suspected of subversion);
2. Where the personal safety of a witness or other person may be compromised; and
3. Where public decency or morality may be gravely offended by the nature of the testimony (e.g., the potentially detailed and graphic testimony of a victim of sexual assault or rape, where such evidence is warranted). In other words, the Commission decided to hear some evidence in camera where it was persuaded that it would be contra bono mores to do so in public – that – is, where the public hearing of the evidence would be contrary to public good, morality or decency.
188.8.131.52 Where the Commission decided to hear a case in private, it had the power, by virtue of section 12(4) (a) – (c), to direct that:
a) no information from the proceedings shall be made public;
b) a person shall not disclose the identity of a witness in the proceedings; and
c) records of proceedings be kept in such manner as to protect the identity of a witness.
184.108.40.206 In effect, a decision by members of the Commission to hear a case in private triggered a number of statutory obligations on members and staff of the Commission, as well as any other persons present at the private hearing. Among these were the obligations to observe confidentiality and secrecy as outlined in section 19 of Act 611.
220.127.116.11 In appropriate cases, the Commission could issue an order prohibiting the publication of any identifying characteristics of a witness.
18.104.22.168 Under Section 18(1) of the Act, the Commission had power to decide the extent to which the identity of any petitioner, witness or informant could be disclosed in any report it would issue.
2.7 THEMATIC AND INSTITUTIONAL COMMITTEES
2.7.1 In addition to the foregoing methods and procedures, and in order to facilitate its work, the Commission established, as pointed out earlier, six special committees to
examine the role, if any, played by a number of key state institutions and civil society groups in human rights violations, as well as their potential role in preventing such
violations and abuses in future. This was pursuant to the powers granted it by section 7(1) of Act 611. The committees were on the following:
1. Security Services
2. Legal Profession (including the Judiciary)
4. Labour, Student and Youth Movements
5. Professional Bodies (other than Legal Profession) and Civil Society Organisations
6. Religious Bodies and Chieftaincy
2.7.2 Each committee comprised a minimum of five persons, including a Chairperson who was a member of the Commission, and at least one other member of the Commission. In addition, two persons who were recognized experts in their respective fields, as well as a Research Officer of the Commission who served as secretary. The Chairman, the Executive Secretary and the Senior Research Officer, were ex-officio members of each committee. The committees conducted research into the relevant thematic issues. Some experts provided such technical assistance as was necessary.
2.7.3 Many individuals submitted memoranda to the committees and/or testified before them to provide information on matters of interest to the committees. Witnesses before these committees did not testify under oath or affirmation, and the reports of the committees were considered and agreed on by the Commission. Volume Four of this Report contains the full reports of the various committees. Summaries of the full reports are captured in this Executive Summary.
2.8.0 OPERATING VALUES
2.8.1 National Reconciliation As A Process
22.214.171.124 In carrying out its activities, the Commission understood from the outset that national reconciliation in Ghana, as elsewhere, was a process, not an event. It also understood its work as a significant trigger to the reconciliation process, but did not conceive of the effort as its exclusive property, or one that would end with the conclusion of its work and the submission of its report to the President.
2.8.2 Broad Public Participation
126.96.36.199 The Commission further appreciated that reconciliation is always a collective enterprise – the outcome of a series of incremental measures pursued by a wide variety of individuals and institutions throughout a society . For these reasons, the Commission
actively cultivated and enlisted the support of a wide network of civil society groups and individuals. It benefited considerably from the support of a dynamic coalition of civil society groups put together by the CDD-Ghana.
188.8.131.52 In addition, the Commission believed that the national reconciliation exercise was an unqualified human good that was crucial to the unity of the country – a value that had to be promoted in earnest, and with objectivity. It viewed the process as requiring a non-partisan but fair and firm approach, if it was to contribute to healing and uniting the country. To this end, the Commission endeavoured, in all its activities, to maintain objectivity and the highest ethical standards.