The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) on Thursday called on the government to order the Electoral Commission (EC) to suspend the upcoming voter registration exercise due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
CHRAJ, in a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency and signed by Mr. Joseph Withal, the Commissioner, said this was to protect the rights to health and life of Ghanaians in the face of the COVID-19.
It said the Commission was, however, worried that in spite of the Presidential Directives and the existing World Health Organisation's precautionary measures aimed at containment and combating COVID-19, the EC had adopted an intransigent posture.
CHRAJ said EC's intended action to undertake the voter registration exercise next month would undermine the WHO's protocols/benchmarks on the COVID-19.
The EC, in a press statement dated March 17, 2020, issued by Mrs. Sylvia Annoh, affirmed that the voter registration exercise would go on as scheduled.
CHRAJ explained that EC's action was a clear violation of the right to health and ultimately the right to life as stipulated under Articles 34(2), 13(1) and 33(5) of the 1992 Constitution.
The CHRAJ said those articles were premised on Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Articles 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and Article 16 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR).
It said Article 12(1) of the Constitution provides that: The fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in this [Constitution} shall be respected and upheld by Executive, Legislature and organs of Government and its agencies and, where applicable to them, by all-natural and legal persons in Ghana.”
”Ghana has signed unto the UN Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which obligates all organs of government to observe and implement the SDGs, in this context, SDG-3 in respect of the right to health and well-being,” it said.
CHRAJ said EC's action is capable of violating the above-mentioned provisions of the Constitution, international and regional human rights instruments and the SDGs for which Ghana is a State Party and a signatory.
It said government organs, particularly the EC, as duty bearers are obligated to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed in Chapter Five of the Constitution.
CHRAJ said the right to health is clarified as an inclusive right extending not only to timely and appropriate care but also to the underlying determinant of health [encompassing] participation of the population in all health-related decision-making at the community, national and international events.
It was of the considered view that the President or the Inter-Ministerial Committee should call the EC to order by suspending forthwith its forthcoming voter registration exercise until the COVID-9 pandemic normalized, the Commission said.
It called on the President or the Inter-Ministerial Committee on COVID-19 to advise the EC on the potential public health risk and safety associated with the planned Voters' Registration due to the danger it could pose to the health and life of the people.