Some stakeholders in the human rights space have urged journalists in Ghana to put pressure on the government and Parliament to make sure that the Non-Custodial Bill is passed into law.
At a media engagement event on Crime Check Foundation’s OSIWA sponsored project, Decriminalising vagrancy laws and advocacy’, the Executive Director of CCF, Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng, highlighted the importance of this law to vagrants, and to the nation as a whole.
“It is important for us in the media to push for the passage of the Non-Custodial Bill. We, as journalists, must let vagrants know that they have rights too,” he stated.
“It [Non-Custodial Bill] has been in Parliament for seven years. The last time I had an audience with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, he said they are going to pass it before the tenure of this Parliament ends… They’ve been paying lip service to these laws.”
The Decriminalising vagrancy laws and Advocacy project has been set up after the African Rights Court issued a landmark advisory opinion, that declared laws that criminalise vagrancy to be incompatible with human rights standards.
The court, in its press statement in December 2020, stated, “Vagrancy laws, both in their formulation, as well as their application, by, among other things, criminalizing the status of an individual, enabling the discriminatory treatment of the underprivileged and marginalized, and also by depriving individuals of their equality before the law are not compatible with Articles 2 and 3 of the Charter [African Charter on Human and People’s Rights]”
“The Court also found that arrests for vagrancy-related offences, which occur without a warrant, are not only a disproportionate response to socio-economic challenges but also discriminatory since they target individuals because of their economic status.”
At the same event, private legal practitioner Doris Bangful Esq. said, “The focus is not to encourage deviant behaviour, but rather to hold institutions accountable such that once you provide social amenities then you are justified for punishing people when they offend the law.”
Another speaker was broadcast journalist Abdul Hayi Moomen.
The CCF-OSIWA Decriminalising Vagrancy Laws and Advocacy project started in May 2021, and is expected to end in April 2022.