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Ghana: Political activist alledgedly tortured by the police faces trial for social media posts

Geneva, 1 September 2022 – Oliver Barker-Vormawor, lead convenor of the #FixTheCountry movement in Ghana, is being tried in court today for criticizing the government on social media. The circumstances of his arrest include alleged arbitrary detention, torture and severe mistreatment. The OMCT asks the judges to ensure Oliver Barker-Vormawor’s right to redress by investigating these acts. If evidence used in the trial appears to have been obtained through illegal means, the prosecution should be discontinued.

Oliver Barker-Vormawor, currently a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge, was arrested on 11 February at Kotoka International Airport. The security forces did not initially allow him to contact his lawyers and brought him to an unknown location. There, he was forced to give access to his phone, beaten, spat on, insulted and threatened to “disappear”.

The alleged torture and inhumane treatment Oliver experienced during the first 48 hours of his detention led him to attempt suicide, an event that could only be prevented by the intervention of his fellow inmates. After this incident, Oliver was held in solitary confinement for 32 days. There, he lived in constant fear of being poisoned or tortured again and developed physical and psychological health problems. On 16 March, after having been admitted to a hospital, he was finally released on bail.

Oliver Barker-Vormawor regularly denounces the government’s curtailment of the rights to free speech and protest. The asserted triggers for his arrest are a series of social media posts in which he criticized the taxation of electronic payments and added as a joke, that if those policies were passed, he would stage a “coup” himself.

Barker-Vormawor has filed a lawsuit against the Inspector-General of Police and the Attorney-General in Accra concerning the ill-treatment he experienced, his unlawful arrest and the violation of his right to legal protection. Unfortunately, no investigation has been initiated so far.

The OMCT calls on the judges to refuse to use any evidence which they know or reasonably believe was obtained through unlawful means, such as torture or other ill-treatment. If an impartial investigation confirms that evidence was obtained through torture, the prosecution should be discontinued.

The OMCT calls on the Government of Ghana to investigate Mr. Barker-Vormawor’s allegations of torture and mistreatment, to compensate him for the damage generated by these events in his life, and to ensure him a fair trial with all due procedural guarantees.

The World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) is the main international coalition of NGOs fighting against torture and ill-treatment. It has more than 200 members in more than 90 countries. Its International Secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

For more information, please contact:

Iolanda Jaquemet, Director of Communications

+41 79 539 41 06

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