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UN tells Ghana to fix ‘inhumane’ treatment of mental health patients

United Nations member countries have urged Ghana’s government to fix the inhumane treatment of people with mental health conditions in the country.

These recommendations were made on January 24, 2023, at the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of Ghana.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process was established in 2006, to assess the human rights records of each UN member state every five years.

“Ghana has failed to meet its own commitment to protect the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities who are held in shackles in faith-based and traditional healing centers,” Adriana Masgras, disability rights coordinator at Human Rights Watch has said on the back of the UN’s recommendations.

“We want to see all countries institute and enforce a global ban on shackling, including in Ghana,” Masgras added in a statement.

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The inhumane practice of shackling exists due to inadequate support and mental health services.

There has also been widespread beliefs that stigmatize people with psychosocial disabilities, which have continued despite positive legal developments over the past decade.

Prior to the UN review itself, Ghana, through a national report, UN entities, and civil society organizations had the opportunity to report on Ghana’s progress in carrying out recommendations made during previous cycles of the review process.

Human Rights Watch submitted a report outlining the human rights abuses against people with psychosocial disabilities in prayer camps and psychiatric hospitals in Ghana, which it documented with reports in 2012 and 2020.

During the 2017 review, Ghana’s government supported 10 out of 11 recommendations addressing the rights of people with disabilities, including to “prevent, investigate and prosecute inhumane treatment in prayer camps or witch camps and psychiatric hospitals” and “address societal attitudes condoning such violations and abuses of rights of persons with mental disabilities.” However, shackling persists.

According to Human Rights Watch in November 2022, it visited five prayer camps and traditional healing centers in the Eastern and Central region of Ghana, and interviewed more than 50 people.

These included people with psychosocial disabilities, mental health professionals, staff at prayer camps and traditional healing centers, mental health advocates, religious leaders, and two senior government officials.

Human Rights Watch said it found more than 60 people, including some children, in chains or confined in small cages and witnessed serious human rights abuses, including a lack of adequate food, unsanitary conditions and a lack of hygiene, and a lack of freedom of movement.

One woman said she was raped three times and never received post-rape care. She said the staff’s response was to lock her door so outsiders couldn’t gain access to her. Human Rights Watch shared this information with Ghana’s Mental Health Authority and Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice.

“Everyone in Ghana, including people with mental health conditions, has the right to live free from stigma, discrimination, and abuse and to receive the services and support they need,” Masgras said.

“Ghana, with the encouragement of other governments, needs to abide by its own commitments and immediately enforce its existing ban on shackling.”

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Source: / Human Rights Watch

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