Ghanaian police covers up child abuse, says legal expert

A child abuse case is being covered up by Tamale’s Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DVVSU), a Ghanaian legal expert says.

Saratu Mahama of the International Federation of Women’s Lawyers (FIDA) says the unit is not pursuing the case because of outside influence.

“I believe there was some pressure,” says Mahama, from FIDA’s office in Kalpohin Estates. “I think there is someone, either from the family or an opinion leader, that is coming in to withdraw the case.”

Mahama learned this information last week during a phone conversation with a DOVVSU staff member.

The case in question involves the vicious beating of an 8 year old girl. On April 13, a witness reported that the victim was beaten by her uncle, says Inspector Lawrence Adombiri.

[Editorial note: The name of the suspect has been withheld as he has not formally been charged.]

The witness heard screaming from a neighbouring house and forced himself inside. He found the girl’s grandmother barricading a door shut. The child’s screams could be heard from within. The neighbour forced the door open and the girl ran outside, blood rushing down her face. The uncle followed her out of the room, a car fan belt in hand.

The victim suffered a fractured right wrist, deep abrasions on her back and a gaping head wound. The girl was treated at the Seventh Day Adventist’s Hospital and released into her father’s care.

According to Adombiri, the suspect told police that his niece is a “spoiled child” and she was being punished for stealing 2 cedi (approximately $1 CAD). Despite this testimony and the eye-witness’ report, the suspect is out on bail.

As a condition of the suspect’s release, he is required to report to the police daily. The suspect did not report to police on April 20, says Insp. Adombiri. He says his unit is continuing to investigate the case.

As a case-worker on domestic abuse issues, Mahama says she frequently sees cases that are not investigated properly.

“Most of the time, we see the [alleged] perpetrator being freed, without being presented in court and it’s very frustrating,” says Mahama.

Iddrisu Inusah of the Commission for Humans Rights and Administrative Justice says the suspect should have seen a judge before being let out on bail.

Yet, Inusah says it is difficult to investigate and prosecute domestic violence cases in the Northern Region. He says victims frequently withdraw their statements, for fear of being ostracized by their families or communities.

“The family they will decide ‘oh no, no … this matter shouldn’t go through the court systems, this shouldn’t go through the police’,” says Inusah.

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About Gwyneth Dunsford

Gwyneth’s passion for journalism and radio grew from a year-long exchange she took to Oslo, Norway where she not only produced but also hosted an English-language radio program. In 2009 she studied media and communications in Washington D.C. through the prestigious Washington Center and during that time, she took a journalism ethics class at the Associated Press, sparking her interest in human rights journalism. Gwyneth has a journalism degree from the University of King’s College and a Comparative Literature and French degree from the University of Alberta. Gwyneth has freelanced for a variety of media outlets including Global Maritimes, News 95.7, The Chronicle Herald and Xtra! Canada. She now joins the Journalists for Human Rights team at Diamond FM Radio in Tamale, Ghana as a Rights Media Radio Intern.

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