President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has stress the need for the country to take formal steps to abolish the death penalty, and remove it from its statute books.
He has therefore called on relevant state actors to speed up work towards the complete repeal of capital punishment from the penal code.
President Akufo-Addo, who made the call when Amnesty International, Ghana called on him at the Jubilee House in Accra last Friday, said death penalty violated the right to life and undermined human dignity.
Amnesty International, in February 2020, petitioned the President on the need to abolish the death penalty.
Though no official moratorium has been imposed on executions, Ghana carried out its last execution in 1993. The Criminal Code and Other Offences Act, (Act 29), 1960, still provides for the use of capital punishment for crimes of treason under the Constitution and a series of other crimes including murder and genocide.
The Armed Forces Act also allows for the use of the death penalty in case of treason and mutiny by military personnel in times of war.
Even though, Ghana ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2000, it was yet to sign and ratify its Second Optional Protocol aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
President Akufo-Addo said the death penalty on the country’s statute books was against its moral values, and devalued lives, rights and dignity of persons.
Since Ghana had made a conscious effort not to invoke the death penalty on persons who had been sentenced to death, the state must “do the logical thing” by obliterating it from her statute books, he said.
President Akufo-Addo said though, the global community was moving away from the use of the death penalty for all crimes, the process for its abolition must however consider terrorism-related offences.
“A lot of people have come to me who in principle support the abolition of the death penalty.
“But whenever the issue of terrorism is raised and the mindless manner in which some of these terrorist groups operate to destroy human life, operations which do not involve the killing of one person, but involves the annihilation of villages, of communities, people hesitate about supporting the abolition of the death penalty for such actors.
“I think it is important that education and sensitisation is sufficiently well laid to address issues like that…Nevertheless, I think that the principle is one that we should move towards in Ghana,” he stated.
The President emphasised, that since Ghana had made a conscious decision not to invoke the death penalty, “then we should do the logical thing and remove it from our statute books.”
“It is a different matter if we were using it selectively; we are not using it at all. Everybody who is sentenced to death by the courts is automatically commuted to life imprisonment even though their treatment is still somewhat differentiated,” he said.
Mr Francis Nyantakyi, Board Chairman of Amnesty International, Ghana stated that the country could adopt a less costly route to abolish the death penalty by amending the Armed Forces Act, 1960 (Act 105) and the Criminal and Other Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29).
He informed the President that progress had been made since the rights group petitioned him in 2020, relating that a private member bill had since been introduced in Parliament by the Member of Parliament for Madina, Francis Xavier Sosu.
“With your support, we hope that Ghana joins our neighbouring countries Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Togo and a host of other African countries including Sierra Leone, and Liberia that have abolished the death penalty.
BY YAW KYEI