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 24.com network.

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.


UN: Ghana's prisons "inhuman, cruel"

15 November 2013, 14:40

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 News24’s Comments Policy

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

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Shakila Alivitsa
4 ways to handle your cheating ma...

He is cheating. How do you handle him?

Submitted by
Shakila Alivitsa
Why do men choose second wives?

Why do men choose to have second wives?

Submitted by
Eugene Odanga
Wizkid set for twin Kenyan shows

Wizkid is back in Kenya. For two shows.

Submitted by
Eugene Odanga
Udada women's festival begins in ...

The Udada women's festival has arrived in Nairobi.

Submitted by
Uhuru pardons 2747 death row conv...

President Uhuru Kenyatta has pardoned a number of death row convicts, sending them to life sentences instead. Read more...

Submitted by
Eugene Odanga
WATCH: Kaka Sungura arrested in t...

Was Kaka Sungura arrested in town?