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General News of Wednesday, 13 October 2004

Source: Graphic

Live With Own Conscience - JAK to Unrepentant Rights Abusers

Accra, Oct. 13, Graphic -- President J. A. Kufuor has declared that the government would leave the perpetrators of human rights violations, who did not show any remorse at the National Reconciliation Commission to their own conscience.

The government, he said, would not pursue any legal action against such violators of human rights, because the work of the NRC was not supposed to be persecutory or prosecuting.?Destiny has its own way of exacting justice,? the President said when he received a comprehensive report of the NRC from its chairman, Mr Justice K.E. Amua-Sekyi, at the Castle, Osu yesterday.

?What is important is that the nation can be healed of its painful past,? President Kufuor said In the case of those who showed remorse, President Kufuor said, the nation could appeal to people, whether they are religious or not, to forgive the offenders.He expressed the hope that wherever remorse was displayed, the victims would readily accept to forgive.Explaining the rationale behind the setting up of the commission, President Kufuor said ?the nation wanted to find the truth so that it can forgive even if it cannot forget.?

The report, which is in five volumes, covers the petitions submitted by victims of human rights abuses, proceedings of the commission, hearings of institutions such as the media, security agencies and other bodies on the roles they played in human rights violations.It also dwells on reparations and reforms necessary to prevent the occurrence of human rights violations in future, as well as the findings and recommendations.

The commission, set up by Act 611, among other things, was to investigate cases of violation and human rights abuses and chronicle these events with a view to preventing their recurrence.Under the Act, the work of the commission covered the periods February 24 1966 to August 21 1969 and January 13,1972 to September 23, 1979, as well as the period December 31, 1981 to January 6, 1993, which were all military regimes.

However, the Act made provisions for people who suffered violations during constitutional eras between March 7, 1957 and Jan 6, 1993.The nine-member commission was appointed on April 11, 2002.The commission began public hearing on January 14, 2003 and by the end of its work , it had received over 4000 petitions from people, who suffered human rights abuses. The commission also visited all parts of the country to hear testimonies of victims of human rights abuses.

President Kufuor said the result of the work of the NRC would help to put the nation on higher pedestal and also serve as a reminder to people appointed to public offices that their work would one day come under public scrutiny. He said the reconciliation exercise would go a long way to draw a firm line between the country?s past, which contained some rather regrettable incidents and the future, which would hopefully mark a very long period of democracy based on the rule of law, fellow feeling, human rights and greater confidence.

He said he observed the deliberations of the NRC from a distance and realised that the work was not an easy one. He observed that not all the people who appeared before the commission were co-operative, saying that some of them even made unfair comments about the commission and took legal action against the chairman of the commission.

In spite of all the adverse attempts to derail the work of the commission, President Kufuor said, the commission, with determination, carried out its work successfully. The President expressed profound appreciation to the commission members for doing the work that should have taken a longer time to execute in a manner that reflected the best of their ability.

He further expressed appreciation to all citizens, institutions such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for the various forms of assistance they offered to facilitate the work of the commission.He expressed the hope that the report would stand the test of time and the scrutiny of researchers.

President Kufuor said the government would study the report and take the appropriate action on it. He, however, indicated that it could happen that not all the recommendations of the commission would be agreed to by the government.Earlier, Mr Justice Amua-Sekyi, who indicated the pleasure and honour of the commission members to have been appointed to serve the country, said two and half years ago they were appointed to compile the true and accurate record of human rights abuses since independence.

He said over 4000 petitions in which people recorded trials and tribulations they had endured in the country were heard.Mr Amua-Sekyi said one of the five volumes of the report, which captured the summary of the petitions was like a horror story.

Other members of the commission are Mr Christian Appiah-Agyei, Lt Gen E.A. Erskine, Dr (Mrs) Sylvia Boye, the Most Rev Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle, Maulvi Wahab Adam, Professor Florence Abena Dolphyne, Professor Henrientta Mensah-Bonsu and Ubor Balafu, a traditional ruler.

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