April 19, 2011

The Minister of Communications, Haruna Iddrisu, has asked the authorities of the Ghana Prisons Service to comply with the Supreme Court ruling to allow prisoners to vote in the next elections.

He said: “Even for those who attempt to derail the democratic process, voting remains an important means of teaching them democratic values” he said, adding that “when politicians know that prisoners can also vote, they will improve on their conditions of living.”

Speaking to the Times on the sidelines of a ceremony to hand over an Information Communication Technology Centre at the Prisons Officers’ Training School in Accra, Mr. Iddrisu expressed the hope that the prisoners would not abuse the opportunity.

He said the Prisons Service is an important institution which needs constant interactions with other arms of government, such as the Judicial Service, the Police Service and the Social Welfare Department, to implement its policies and programmes relating to the penal system.

“The Prisons Service is an important institution of government to uphold and respect the rights of convicts,” he stated.

The Chief Public Relations Officer of the Ghana Prisons Service, ASP Courage Atsem, said the service was ready to collaborate with the Electoral Commission (EC) to ensure compliance with the Supreme Court ruling.

He said the service was awaiting the EC’s modalities on the issue.

He expressed satisfaction with the attention being given to the inmates’ problems.

He said the opportunity given to prisoners to vote was an improvement in the country’s democratic credentials which gave them the right to determine who should rule them.

The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision on March 24 last year, gave the nod to all on remand and convicted prisoners in the country to exercise their franchise.

To cement its decision, the court directed the EC to come out with a Constitutional Instrument (CI) to create the legal framework that will facilitate the inclusion of prisoners in the voters register for the next general election.

The court, presided over by the Chief Justice, Mrs. Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, in a unanimous decision, upheld an application filed on behalf of remand and convicted prisoners by two legal practitioners, Ahumah Ocansey and Kojo Graham of the Centre for Human Rights and Civil Liberties (CHURCIL).

The two had, in separate suits which were consolidated by the court on November 12, 2009, prayed the court to declare as null and void, sections of PNDC Law 284 which barred remand and convicted prisoners from voting.

Joined in the suit were the Attorney-General and the EC.

“This right extends or includes all convicted prisoners, irrespective of the provisions of Section 7 (5) of the Representation of the People’s Law, 1992, (PNDC Law 284) which imposes a residency requirement or qualification under which convicted prisoners were deemed disqualified,” the court ruled.

It, therefore, declared as void Section 7 (5) of Law 284, since it was inconsistent with Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution.

Source: Ghanaian Times