- 1. An overview
The present article reflects the growing importance, diversity and complexity of fundamental human right in Ghana in recent times when government agents are perceived to be secretly engaged in wire-tapping or in control of personal information of people without their consent. With the passing of Whistleblowers Act, (720) in 2006 by parliament, violations of privacy remain a serious concern to Ghanaians. This law provides for the manner in which individuals may, in public interest, disclose information that relates to unlawful or other illegal conduct or corrupt practices of others–dealing with six specific types of impropriety. However, apart from challenges of enforcement it faces challenges from civil and human rights groups that believe the Whistleblower Act violets some fundamental human rights of individuals such as freedom of speech which the 1992 Constitution has guaranteed. Also many other existing laws have not kept up with the technological development, leaving significant gaps in protections while the enforcement and intelligence agencies have been given exemptions.
Privacy is a fundamental human right recognized in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in many other international and regional treaties. Privacy underpins human rights issues of the contemporary time.
Nearly every country in the world recognizes a right of inviolability of the home, property, and secrecy of communication. Most newly-written Constitution such as South Africa’s and Hungary’s include specific rights to access and control one’s personal information. In countries where privacy is not explicitly recognized in the Constitution, such as the United States, Ireland and India, the courts have found that right in other provisions. In many countries, international agreements that recognize privacy right such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1966, have been adopted into their national laws and Ghana is not excluded.
Notwithstanding this wide recognition and constitutional guarantees, there are widespread violations of laws relating to surveillance of communications, even in the most democratic countries. The U.S. Department’s annual review of human rights violations finds that over 90 countries engage in illegally monitoring the communications of political opponents, human rights workers, journalist and labour organizers (GILC Report, 2007). Before I turn to examine what the situation is like in Ghana, it is important to look at “privacy” from different perspectives. This is because, the various concepts on privacy form the basis of its crystallization into legal right.
- 2. The concept of “Privacy” as a right
The New Oxford Dictionary of English defines “privacy” simply as the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people.
The Calcutta Committee in the UK defines it legally as “the right of the individual to be protected against intrusion into his personal life or affairs, or those of his family, by direct physical means or by publication of information” (Report of the Committee, QC, 1990 London: HMSO, p.7)
Among all the human rights in the international instruments, privacy is perhaps …