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Constitution, Government & Legislation | Courts & Judgments | Human Rights | Legal Profession
map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

The Ghanian Constitution that established the Fourth Republic provided a basic charter for republican democratic government. It declares Ghana to be a unitary republic with sovereignty residing in the Ghanaian people. Intended to prevent future coups, dictatorial government, and one-party states, it is designed to establish the concept of powersharing. The document reflects lessons learned from the abrogated constitutions of the 1957, 1960, 1969, and 1979, and incorporates provisions and institutions drawn from British and American constitutional models. One controversial provision of the Constitution indemnifies members and appointees of the PNDC from liability for any official act or omission during the years of PNDC rule. The Constitution calls for a system of checks and balances, with power shared between a president, a unicameral parliament, a council of state, and an independent judiciary.

Executive authority is established in the Office of the Presidency, together with his Council of State. The president is head of state, head of government, and commander in chief of the armed forces. He also appoints the vice president. According to the Constitution, more than half of the presidentially appointed ministers of state must be appointed from among members of Parliament.

Legislative functions are vested in Parliament, which consists of a unicameral 200-member body plus the Speaker. To become law, legislation must have the assent of the president, who has a qualified veto over all bills except those to which a vote of urgency is attached. Members of Parliament are popularly elected by universal adult suffrage for terms of four years, except in war time, when terms may be extended for not more than 12 months at a time beyond the four years.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Courts & Judgments

The Ghanian Constitution mandates Superior Courts of Judicature consisting of the High Court (of Judicature) and Regional Tribunals, the High Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court. The Constitution allows the Government to nominate any number beyond a minimum of nine members to the Supreme Court; confirmation is the responsibility of Parliament. The Chief Justice is empowered to impanel the justices of his choice to hear cases. These provisions, along with a debilitating lack of resources, have called into question the court's role as a balance to the power of the executive branch and contributed to the perception that the judiciary occasionally is subject to executive influence.

The Constitution establishes two basic levels of courts: superior and lower. The superior courts include the Supreme Court, the Appeals Court, the High Court, and regional tribunals. In March the Acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court inaugurated two Fast Track Courts, a division of the High Court of Judicature, intended to try cases to conclusion within 6 months. The Fast Track Courts are authorized to hear cases involving banks and investors, human rights, electoral petitions, government revenue, prerogative writs, defamation, specified commercial and industrial cases, and criminal cases involving substantial public money or are a matter of extreme public importance. Parliament may establish lower courts or tribunals by decree.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Human Rights

The Ghanian Government's generally poor human rights record improved in 2001; although there were significant improvements in several areas, serious problems remained in others. Police use of excessive force resulted in some extrajudicial killings and injuries. Opposition activists claimed that government security forces engaged in harassment, including unlawful searches and detentions. There continued to be credible reports that members of the police beat suspects in custody and other citizens, and that police and some elements of the military arbitrarily arrested and detained persons. Police corruption was a problem. Although members of the security forces often are not punished for abuses, the commanding officer and other members of the 64th Infantry Unit, which is believed to commit many abuses, was transferred during the year. Prison conditions remained harsh; however, according to a 2000 government inspection report, conditions have improved from previous years. Prolonged pretrial detention remained a problem. Inadequate resources and a system vulnerable to political and economic influence compromised the integrity of the overburdened judicial system. At times the Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights.

The Government generally respects freedom of speech and of the press; however, there were occasional reports that government officials pressured government media outlets to cease or minimize coverage of opposition politicians. Major government media outlets exercised some restraint in their coverage. Unlike in the previous year, only one libel suit was filed by a minister. On July 27, the Government abolished the criminal libel law and dismissed all pending court cases related to the law; however, government media continued to favor government officials in their coverage. At times the Government restricted freedom of assembly, and police used force to disperse demonstrations. The Government generally respects freedom of association; however, in February the Government announced that it would prohibit the existence and formation of all political groupings within the security services. There are some limits on freedom of religion. Although the Government generally respects freedom of movement, police set up barriers to demand bribes from motorists. Violence against women is a serious problem. Trokosi, a traditional form of ritual servitude, is practiced on a limited scale in one region of the country. Female genital mutilation (FGM) still is practiced, primarily in the north. Religious differences led to tension and occasional clashes between different groups. There were some incidents of ethnically motivated violence, and some ethnic groups complain of discrimination. Child labor is a problem in the informal sector, and forced child labor and trafficking in women and children also are problems. Vigilante justice also is a problem.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Legal Profession
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