Commute death sentences to life imprisonment — AIG

Amnesty International Ghana (AIG) has suggested for the government to commute the death sentences of all death row prisoners to life imprisonment and ratify the International Convention on the abolition of death penalty.

The Deputy Director of Amnesty International, Sabrina Tucci, who made the call during the launch of the Ghana Death Penalty Report for 2017, also called on the government to abolish the death penalty from the country’s statute books, saying research indicated that, death penalty did not deter crime.

According to her, Ghana, since 1993, has not executed anybody on death row and there was no need to keep the death penalty law in the country’s statute books.

The Report titled, “Locked Up and Forgotten: The Need to Abolish the Death Penalty in Ghana,” highlights on death penalty in Ghana, fair trials for death row prisoners, poor conditions on death row, and the trends towards abolition of the death penalty across Africa and provide recommendations to enhance  effective Prisons Service in Ghana.

The study carried out in the Nsawam Prison revealed that, there were 148 prisoners on death row at the end of 2016, comprising 144 men and four women, sentenced to death for murder.

Madam Tucci said the study found that, many of those on death row were convicted without proper legal representation.

“Most of the death row prisoners told [AIG] that, they had ineffective legal representation during their trials,” she said, adding that, some of the inmates had access to Ghana Legal Aid Scheme service, but their lawyers did not attend all the hearings.

Madam Tucci said some of those on the death row did not understand their right to appeal or how to go about the appeal process.

Touching on the conditions at the Nsawam Prison, the West Africa Researcher for Amnesty International, Sabrina Mahtani mentioned overcrowding, poor access to medical care and food, isolation, which fell below the International standards of keeping death row prisoners.

“Inmates on death row are not allowed to take part in recreational and education activities at all.  The effective denial of access for death row inmates to recreational activities and opportunities to educate themselves, including overcoming illiteracy, reflect a failure by Ghana to meet international standards as set out in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of prisoners,” she said.

Madam Mahtani called on the government to provide adequate food, medical care and access to educational and recreational facilities to death row inmates and to address the overcrowding problems at the country’s prisons.

The Director of Prisons (DOP) in charge of Administration and Finance of the Ghana Prisons Service, DOP Stephen Cofie said plans were far advance to expand and construct new prisons to address the overcrowding problem.

He said, Ghana was gradually abolishing the death penalty system and nobody on the death row had been killed since 1993.

A 78-year-old man, Cephas Komla Dzah, a death row inmate who was convicted of murder and pardoned in 2014, said he was arrested for murder in 1995 and remanded for five years and convicted in the year 2000 and called for the death penalty to be abolished.

He said the country was wasting precious human resource by putting people on the death row, stressing since he was pardoned, he has been helping to address the problems facing the community.

By Kingsley Asare & Beryl Deiba Armah

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