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The National Reconciliation Commission Report

NRC LogoCHAPTER ONE

1.1 INTRODUCTION

1.1.1 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 ESTABLISHMENT

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 INAUGURATION

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 OBJECTIVES

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 FUNCTIONS

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.

1.8 POWERS

1.8.1 Investigation

1.8.1.1 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.

1.8.1.2 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.

1.8.2 Hearings

1.8.2.1 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 INDEPENDENCE

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.


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