Ghana police under fire for crushing demonstration against ghost voters
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said evidence showed that police used disproportionate force against the protestors during the demonstrations in Accra on Wednesday.
This peaceful demonstration was turned by the police into a bloody affair
A pressure group – Let My Vote Count Alliance, civic groups and the main opposition New Patriotic party (NPP) organised the protests.
The protestors wanted to petition the independent electoral commission chaiperson Shallotte Osei to ensure a fresh voters’ roll was in place ahead of next year’s general elections.
However, the protesters were whipped, tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets after they allegedly diverted from the approved route for the march. According to reports, 20 activists including a leading NPP official Gabby Otchere-Darko were arrested.
“Media reports show footages of police officers using tear gas, rubber bullets, hot water and even warning shots to disperse the crowd,” the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said on Friday.
“The police armed with truncheons, canes and horsewhips were also filmed chasing some protesters who were running away and who incidentally were unarmed and mercilessly beating and kicking them resulting in serious injuries for some of the protesters.”
But the police defended their action saying protesters assaulted them with stones. The police said some protestors tried to forced their way into the Electoral Commission’s office in violation of a court order.
The police said they had no choice but to use minimal force to restore law and order.
Police spokesperson, Cephas Arthur is quoted was saying, “the police is there to protect citizens but they must subject themselves to the law of the land.”
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative’s Afirca Office head Mina Mensah said in protecting life and property, the police were equally subject to human rights standards and rules of engagement.
“In this era of the democracy, the Ghana Police Service needs to realise and prioritize the fact that there is a clear relationship between the way policing is carried out and experienced,” Mina said in a statement.
“The police cannot go about brutalising citizens in the guise of protecting life and property when those have not been threatened and expect citizens to trust them.
“The police went overboard, their action totally unacceptable and unfortunate in this current dispensation.”
“This attitude of the police that seems to say ‘it does not matter, how it is done provided law and order is restored’ must be checked. In a democracy the ‘how ‘matters.”
NPP presidential election candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, also condemned the police’s “brutal action,” describing it as “shameful” and called on state security to investigate the issue.
“This peaceful demonstration was turned by the police into a bloody affair – water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets. It is a great shame on our country, and it is a tragedy for Ghana,” he said.