AMNESTY International, Ghana Chapter has called on Parliament to, as a matter of urgency, ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to pave the way for the abolition of the death penalty in the country.
It said the retention of the death penalty in Ghana’s statute books continued to dent the nation’s human rights records despite Ghana’s enviable position as a beacon of democracy in the Africa sub-region.
Mr. Lawrence K. Amesu, Director of Amnesty International Ghana, made the call at a public forum on death penalty held in Accra on Tuesday. It was sponsored by the Embassy of France.
He said the country continued to abstain at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly when a vote was called for the abolition of the death penalty.
“Obviously this is because the country has not yet ratified the second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR leading to abolishing of the death penalty,” he said.
Mr. Amesu disclosed that last year, nine death sentences were imposed in the country, however, the country still falls in the category of countries which were referred to as abolitionist in practice.
He said there were no executions carried out in 2014, thus, keeping the country on a clean sheet over the past 22years.
He indicated that the President on July 1, commuted 21 death sentences to life imprisonment and this had led to the reduction of the number of people on the death row in the country as at December 2014 to 137.
Mr. Amesu said all those actions by government and the fact that it had accepted the recommendations made by the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) to remove the death penalty from the constitution, were indications that the government and, the indeed, Ghanaians were committed to the abolition of death penalty in the country.
“The major challenge confronting us and the progress towards possible abolition of the death penalty in Ghana at the moment is that the CRC has come to a standstill since last year. The programme towards a road map to conduct a referendum, which was planned by a Constitutional Review Implementation Committee (CRIC) put together by the government for the purpose, has stalled,” he said.
He said “this is due to a pending case at the Supreme Court for the determination of the power and authority of CRIC to continue the assignment. Up to date, it is not clear when the Supreme Court intends to call the case for hearing. This case has been at the court for almost one year now”.
Mr. Amesu hinted that Amnesty International Ghana would petition the Chief Justice to expedite action on the hearing and determination of the case pending before the Supreme Court to pave the way for the CRIC to continue its work and help accelerate the process towards abolishing the death penalty.
Mr. Emile Short, former Commissioner at the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) urged the country to quickly expedite action to abolish death penalty from the statute books.
He said over the years, death penalty had not been carried out, yet it still exist in the country’s books and appealed to the government, parliament and the judiciary to quicken the pace to get it abolished.
The French Ambassador to Ghana, Mr. Frederic Clavier, reiterated his government’s commitment to ensure the abolishing of the death penalty.
He said life imprisonment was more preferred than death penalty which, he described as an instant justice and urged all to support the campaign.
By Joseph Edu Archison and
Dorcas Owusuaa Asante