There is the need to embark on serious sensitisation in order to convince Ghanaians to vote for the total abolishment of death penalty in the country’s legal system, a former Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Justice Emile Short, has recommended.
Justice Emile Short’s comments come at the back of calls by Human Rights Group, Amnesty International Ghana (AIG), on government to completely scrap the death penalty as the country keeps putting convicts on death row although no executions have been made since 1993.
The AIG is campaigning for the total abolishment of the capital punishment which the organisation describes as torturous and an archaic practice that needs reform, adding that it must be removed by the end of 2019.
However, to realise this goal, Justice Emile Short believes a lot of work needs to be done in terms of convincing citizens who may strongly oppose the abolishing of the death penalty.
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At the launch of the Amnesty International's Death Sentence and Executions 2017 Report in Accra yesterday, the former CHRAJ boss said: “There’s a lot of sensitisation that needs to be done.”
Justice Short, who also endorsed the abolishment of death penalty, explained that the punishment was not the most effective among other sentences and did not prevent others from committing crimes.
Not a deterrent
“The evidence is quite clear that death penalty is not a deterrent. So for those who want to retain it because they think it is a deterrent, we have to demonstrate to them that the evidence is clear that it’s not a deterrent,” he posited.
Another reason sensitisation must be done according to the human rights activist is that, for the death penalty to be totally abolished, about 75 per cent of endorsement is required for the amendment of that provision in Ghana’s Constitution.
“Under our Constitution, for that provision to be amended, 40 per cent of those entitled to vote have to vote, and then 75 per cent of those who voted have to have voted in favour of the amendment of that provision. In other words, it’s not for the President to say ‘I’ve abolished the death penalty.’ It’s a constitutional matter,” he reiterated.
Amnesty International says at least 1,032 people were executed in a total of 23 countries in 2016 (the most recent year on record), down from 1,634 in 2015. But the number of death sentences imposed in 2016 but not yet carried out was 3,117 - a significant increase on the previous year.
Which countries still have the death penalty?
China, Iran and Saudi Arabia executed the most people in 2016, according to Amnesty. A total of 57 countries retain the death penalty, while the remainder have abolished it, either in law or in practice, according to the Washington DC-based Death Penalty Information Centre.
Benin and Nauru both dropped the death penalty for all crimes in 2016, and Chad and Guatemala took significant steps towards abolition. By contrast, after a 60-year moratorium, the Maldives last year made moves to reintroduce executions. A total of 20 people were on death row in the island nation in 2017, The Independent reports.
Who are the world's main executioners?
Amnesty says China is “the world’s top executioner”, carrying out judicial killings “in the thousands” every year.
“It is difficult to get a clear number as Beijing classifies most information related to the death penalty as state secrets,” reports Al Jazeera English.
Iran carried out at least 567 executions in 2016, according to Human Rights Watch, although only 242 were announced through official or semi-official sources. At least 328 people were killed for drug-related offences.
Meanwhile, the US dropped out of the top five biggest executioners for the first time since 2006, putting 20 people to death - the lowest number there since 1991, Amnesty says.