Victims of military abuses to prosecute officers

Victims of violations committed by military officers are taking their case to the country’s highest court after a military investigation confirmed its officers were forcing parking offenders to violate corpses in July 2008.

A military investigation, ordered by President John Kufuor, confirmed two Ghanaian military officers and an unspecified number of hospital attendants had forced commercial drivers to violate corpses at a military hospital morgue as punishment for repeat parking offences.

The military has not made public its recommendations for punishment.

The crime

Military officers arrested about 20 commercial drivers who they claimed regularly parked illegally outside of an Accra military hospital known as “37 military hospital”.

According to the report, two military officers detained the drivers for several days in the hospital’s morgue and forced them to violate corpses.

According to drivers who spoke to IRIN, the officers forced them to touch, kiss and have sex with female corpses, while others were coerced into bathing the cadavers. Paul Twum, a 20-year-old driver’s assistant, told IRIN, “They hit me in my chest hard anytime I hesitated to do what they asked me.”

The Ghanaian military is often called upon to help the police with law and order matters. It is necessary, therefore, to curb military power, according to Nana Oye Lithur, the Africa Director of Ghana’s Constitutional Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice, (GCCHRAJ).

“It’s time … [to] properly define the military’s role in our civilian life,” she said.

Legal battle

Drivers rejected the military investigation’s recommendation that each of them be given $100 in damages and a year’s free medical care.

“I suffer from severe chest pains and then there is the psychological trauma. I have spent far more than the $100 on my physical and counselling needs since my ordeal. This package is unacceptable,” said, Emmanuel Kwame Nfojo, who told IRIN he was one of the abused drivers.

With the help of the Accra-based human rights group, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, the drivers are taking the military offenders to court, accusing them of gross human rights violations, and demanding US$25,000 for each driver.

Military response

According to the public affairs director of the Ghana Armed Forces, Colonel Nibo, the military’s top leaders condemn the crime.

“We will not shield any of the culprits,” Colonel Nibo told IRIN, without disclosing any details of the military’s proposed punishment.

“If they want to go to court, it’s their right. Let the court pronounce on it and we will abide by it,” said Nibo.

He says the military is undertaking internal reforms to improve military- civilian relations, and plans to publicise the details soon in the hope this will boost Ghanaians confidence in their military.

Many civilians fear the military’s heavy-handed reputation. Ghana’s legislature has criticised the military’s violent crackdown during clashes that started on 31 August in the country’s northern region against civilians.