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165 On death row: Amnesty International kicks against capital punishment

BY: Justice Agbernosi & Elizabeth Konadu-Boakye
Amnesty International kicks against capital punishment
Amnesty International kicks against capital punishment

Some seven convicts were sentenced to death in 2021, bringing the number of people on death row to 165, the 2021 Amnesty International’s death sentence and execution report has revealed.

The report, which covers judicial use of the death penalty for the period of January 2021 to December 2021, said all the 165 persons on death row were convicted of murder.

At a news conference to launch the report, the Board Vice-Chairperson of Amnesty International Ghana, Elizabeth Adomako, said although there had not been any execution since 1993, the death penalty breached human rights, particularly, the rights to life and to live free from torture and cruelty.

She, therefore, urged Parliament to expedite work on the Criminal Offences Amendment Act (Act 29) and the Armed Forces Bill Amendment (Act 105) to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment with parole.

“When the death penalty is carried out, it is final. Mistakes that are made cannot be unmade. An innocent person may be released from prison for a crime they did not commit, but an execution can never be reversed,” she said

Rankings

The Campaign and Communication Coordinator of Amnesty International, Belinda Adikie Asamanyuah, added that the country’s failure to abolish the death penalty had directly affected its ranking with neighbouring countries such as Togo, Gabon, Benin, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone, who had already abolished the penalty.

She added that although there had been considerable improvements in the human rights situation in the country, there still remained several human rights concerns such as police brutality, impunity and environmental degradation.

That, she said, had led to climate crisis and sexual and gender-based violence, which required immediate attention and action by the government.

Prison conditions, Ms Asamanyuah said, were still in a deplorable state, while prisoners on death row continued to suffer mental health issues on account of their situation.

Criminal Offences Act

Speaking on the overview of the Amendment of the Criminal Offences Act Draft Bill, a Ranking Member of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Francis-Xavier Sosu, said he was particularly passionate about the passing of the bill because the death penalty was completely unjustifiable, adding that the premium put on life by our society was not what we thought it was.

“The biggest evidence of the lack of respect to life and dignity of life was the retention of the death penalty in whichever way it is looked at; whether in America, in Europe, wherever, it doesn’t matter because the standard or measure that we give life is not determined by the geographical location of the person,” he said.

He said a complete abolition of the death penalty would require a constitutional amendment which would be expensive and time-consuming, hence the committee’s resolve to amend the Criminal Offences Act to get a 90 per cent abolition of the penalty.

He revealed that at the last stakeholders meeting in Parliament, representatives of the Armed Forces said their head was in total support of abolishing the penalty, and was ready to give any support and assistance to get Act 105, the Armed Forces Bill, passed.