Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Probe Into ‘37’ Incidents Begins

By Edmund Mingle
Friday, 11 July 2008

THE Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) has set up a body to investigate allegations of detention and torture of some commercial drivers and their mates by military guards at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra.
It is the second to be set up after the hospital’s management instituted an internal board of enquiry to investigate the matter for those soldiers found culpable to be punished.
As part of the investigations by the GAF, some of the commercial drivers and mates yesterday gave their testimonies to a team from the Special Investigation Branch of the Military Police of the GAF.
Testimonies of the 12 victims the Times met there were taken by the investigating team behind closed doors in the Trades Union Congress boardroom where the head office of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union is located.
The victims, some of them still looking traumatised, and others with wounds on their faces as a result of the alleged torture by the military guards, appeared before the two-member interrogating team one after the other.
Two representatives of the GPRTU, led by the Deputy General Secretary of Operations, Tham Ernest, sat in the meeting.Two of the victims with swollen cheeks and eyes, told newsmen, before the hearing was closed to the media, that they were beaten by the guards when they initially refused to enter the mortuary.
The Times reported on Monday that for the past three weeks, recalcitrant drivers who were arrested by military guards for parking wrongly infront of the hospital or dropping off and picking passengers there were allegedly detained at the hospital’s mortuary as punishment.
The punishment also included arranging corpses, cleaning and mopping up the mortuary floor.
Staff Sergeant Divine Asigbetsey, who led the team from the SIB, told the Times that they have been mandated by the Military High Command to collect the evidence of the drivers and their mates as a basis to interrogate the offending soldiers some of whom have been identified.
He said that as a norm, it was necessary in any investigations that the statement of a complainant was taken first before interrogating the accused.
He said if it becomes necessary during the investigations, the victims may be required to help identify other soldiers who have not been identified by the SIB.
The management of the hospital has also set up an internal committee to investigate the matter.
The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) on Monday, condemned the treatment meted out to those concerned, describing it as cruel and against their fundamental human rights.
Alhaji Yaw Manu, Chairman of the GPRTU, on Tuesday, gave the assurance that the Union would assist in the investigations to resolve the matter, adding that the affected drivers and mates would be sent to the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital for medical check-ups.

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