Constitutional Provisions

According to Article 13(1) of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution (as amended through 1996): 

No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally except in the exercise of the execution of a sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence under the laws of Ghana of which he has been convicted.

Article 13(2) then provides that:

A person shall not be held to have deprived another person of his life in contravention of clause (1) of this article if that other person dies as the result of a lawful act of war or if that other person dies as a result of the use of force to such an extent as is reasonably justifiable in the particular circumstances:

(a) For the defence of any person from violence or for the defence of property; or

(b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained; or

(c) for the purposes of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny; or  

(d) in order to prevent the commission of a crime by that person.

According to Article 21(1)(d) of the Constitution: "All persons shall have the right to freedom of assembly including freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations...." 

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties
1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 State Party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) State Party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints Yes
CAT Optional Protocol 1 State Party
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court State Party

Regional Treaties

Adherence to Regional Human Rights Treaties
1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights State Party
1998 Protocol to the African Charter on the African Court State Party
Article 34(6) declaration regarding individual petitions Yes
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties at Regional Level
Malabo Protocol on the African Court of Justice and Human Rights Signatory

National Legislation

Police Use of Force

Legislation governing police use of force is contained in a series of longstanding laws and regulations, in particular the 1960 Criminal Procedure Code, the 1960 Criminal Code, and the 2012 Criminal Offences Act. Ghana also has separate regulations for police use of force: Police Force Regulations 1922 (No. 7).

Under Section 36 of the 1960 Criminal Code, which governs the use of force in arrest, detention, or recapture of any person according to law:

Whoever by law may, with or without warrant or other legal process, arrest and detain another person may, if the other person, having notice or believing that he is lawfully arrested, avoids arrest by resistance or fight or escapes or endeavours to escape from custody, use any force which is necessary for his arrest, detention, or recapture, and may, if the arrest is made in respect of a felony, kill him, if he cannot by any means otherwise be arrested, detained, or retaken.

This provision allows intentional lethal use against an unarmed felon, which would be a serious violation of international law.

There are also serious concerns about the permissiveness of the right to use lethal force to disperse an unlawful assembly, as set out in Section 37 of the 1960 Code:

For the prevention of, or for the defence of himself or any other person against any crime, or for the suppression or dispersion of a riotous or unlawful assembly, a person may justify any force or harm which is reasonably necessary extending in case of extreme necessity, even to killing.

Use of Force in Custodial Settings

Section 46 of the 1972 Prisons Service Act regulates the use of force in Ghana’s prisons. It states as follows:

(1) Save as provided by this section, no prison officer shall use force, or any weapon, against a prisoner.

(2) A prison officer may use such force against a prisoner as is reasonably necessary to make him obey a lawful order which he has refused to obey or in order to maintain discipline.

(3) A prison officer may use weapons against a prisoner escaping or attempting to escape: Provided that-

(a) resort shall not be had to any weapons unless the prison officer has reasonable ground to believe that he cannot otherwise prevent the escape; and

(b) a firearm shall not be used against a prisoner unless the prison officer has first given a warning to the prisoner that he is about to fire upon him and such warning goes unheeded.

(4) A prison officer may use a weapon against any prisoner- (a) who is using violence to any person, if such prison officer has reasonable ground to believe that such violence is likely to cause grievous harm to that person; or (b) who is engaged with others in riotous or threatening behaviour and refuses to desist when called upon.

(5) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (3) and (4) of this section, no prison officer shall use any weapon against a prisoner in the presence of his superior officer except under the orders of such superior officer.

(6) The use of any weapon under this section shall, as far as possible, be to disable and not to kill.

Police Oversight

In Ghana, there is no fully independent, specific police oversight body. The Inspector-General of Police as the head of the Police Service is directly responsible for the operational control and administration of the national police. Referrals for disciplinary action are forwarded to him by the Police Intelligence and Professional Standards Bureau.

The external Police Council also has the power to recommend disciplinary action for police officers. Regional Police Committees advise the Police Council on any matter relating to the administration of the Police Service in a specific region. 

Ghana's Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice is mandated to consider complaints of human rights violations by a public official, including a police officer.



Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies 

In its 2016 Concluding Observations on Ghana's initial report on its implementation of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern "about reports of excessive use of force and unlawful killings by law enforcement and security personnel". The Committee regretted

that no statistics or information on prosecutions of perpetrators and compensation to victims has been provided. It also regrets the lack of information on measures taken to prevent those violations, including measures taken to bring the regulations on the use of lethal force into compliance with the State party’s obligation under article 6 of the Covenant. It notes with concern that the mechanism to investigate police abuses is not fully independent, as complaints against police officers are investigated by fellow officers.Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on Ghana's initial report on its implementation of the ICCPR, UN doc. CCPR/C/GHA/CO/1, 9 August 2016, §21.

The Committee recommended that Ghana

establish an independent mechanism to carry out investigations of alleged misconduct by police officers. The State party should also take measures to ensure that the law and practice are in accordance with the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on Ghana's initial report on its implementation of the ICCPR, UN doc. CCPR/C/GHA/CO/1, 9 August 2016, §22.


There have been no recent cases concerning police or prison officer use of force before the African Commission or African Court of Human and Peoples' Rights.


In a 2016 academic article, Francis D Boateng and Isaac Nortey Darko assert that police brutality in Ghana is "endemic", occurring "on a regular basis". They further claim that the "beating of suspects during arrest and interrogation, and manhandling of innocent citizens during demonstrations are common practices among police personnel in Ghana". They ascribe these problems primarily to a hangover from the former British colonial regime.


1992 Constitution (as amended through 1996)

1960 Criminal Code Act

1960 Criminal Procedure Code Act

2012 Criminal Offences Amendment Act

1970 Police Service Act

Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations (2016)

Francis D Boateng and Isaac Nortey Darko: Our past: The effect of colonialism on policing in Ghana