Two years after the military and police allegedly attacked, robbed and raped residents of the town of Nalerigu in northern Ghana the case remains under investigation by the Ghana Police Service.
On November 14, 2009, the community was placed under an illegal curfew by the joint military-police after the murder of a local politician. Ten days later, residents say, the situation spun out of control.
One of the victims said she was at home when military officers entered and began beating and interrogating everyone inside about the recent murder. The officers later cornered her and two other young women in their room.
“They said that we should all lie down. And they said that do we know something? And we said no. And they said that now, whether we like it or not, whether it’s false or we really like it they will rape us,” she said. She was 16 years old at the time and is one of five young women who reported being gang-raped by at gunpoint by officers that night.
The following morning the community reacted. The District Chief Executive picked up the alleged rape victims in his official vehicle and drove them to the hospital where medical reports and samples were taken. Interviews were given to a several national media outlets with footage showing injuries sustained from beatings and damaged property. The local office of Ghana’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) wrote a report based on victim testimony. The International Federation of Women’s Lawyers (FIDA) caught wind of the story and released a press statement demanding justice for the people of Nalerigu.
“No court, no anything, up to now, so we don’t know, the case just ended like that, we don’t know. But we can’t do anything, so we are just sitting we don’t know what is going on,” said Mahmoud Fuseini, who claims he was also beaten by the military that night.
When contacted the Ghana Police Service refused to go on record, but offered to give an update on the status of the case: the semen sample taken from one of the girls is still sitting in the National Crime Laboratory and they have yet to receive the results.
“They keep saying ‘we’re investigating’ but if an independent body is investigating than it means a policeman isn’t calling a policeman. If you see the manner in which people have suffered it will tell you that if it goes unheeded, if there is no action that is taken about it, the democracy in Ghana is a mere mockery,” said Sule Salifu Soya, East Mamprusi District Director for CHRAJ who wrote the commission report. Soya says the police should never have been put in charge of the investigation.
FIDA’s Northern regional coordinator, Saratu Mahama, said her office is still considering petitioning Ghanaian Attorney General Martin A. B. K. Amidu.
“We know that Ghana’s military and police are respected not only in Ghana but in the international circles. If such a thing should happen it should not be swept under the carpet,” she said.
On a recent visit to Nalerigu, Mahama said she was met with several inquiries from residents wondering how the case is progressing.
“They feel that the law has failed them, the system has failed them. It looks like somebody somewhere is not listening. So we want the people to listen,” she said.