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Ghana must abolish the death penalty

A civil society organization, the Perfecto of Sentiment (POS) Foundation has called on the government to abolish the death penalty. The organization argues that the 1992 Constitution promotes and ensures the protection of the human rights of the citizenry, particularly the right to life.

The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state.

As of August 2015, 129 people were under sentence of death.

According to the report, No official moratorium on executions is in place, but Amnesty International considers Ghana to be “abolitionist in practice” since it retains the death penalty in law for ordinary crimes, but has not executed anyone in the past 10 years. Ghana, it is believed, has an established practice of not carrying out executions.

However, Ghanaian courts continue to hand out mandatory death sentences for the crime of murder, even though the UN Human Rights Committee in 2014 determined that such mandatory sentencing violates Ghana’s international human rights obligations.

The report indicated that, those on death row, a delay in the reform process has left them trapped in grim circumstances. The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment noted in 2014 that several inmates on death row “showed signs of severe mental and physical trauma”.

Many of the death row prisoners whom Amnesty International met in 2016 and 2017 showed deep distress at their plight; one man on death row described it as a “prison within a prison” and another said, “If I were to be killed, it would be better than being here.”

Ghana’s failure to ratify International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR-OP2) has created anxiety and uncertainty for inmates under sentence of death. They do not know if and when a new administration could begin executions because of the lack of a moratorium on the death penalty.

In August 2016, Researchers visited Nsawam Maximum Security Prison (Nsawam Prison) and interviewed 98 men and three women prisoners out of 137 people on death row at the time. The organization visited Nsawam Prison again in March 2017 and there were six prisoners on death row officially considered to have mental and intellectual disabilities. They received no specialized treatment, although the Prison Service said it was seeking psychiatric support.

The report therefore recommended that, Government of Ghana as matter of urgency should ratify, without reservations, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

POS Foundation recommended that, there should be an establishment of an official moratorium on executions and commutes the death sentences of all death row prisoners to terms of imprisonment.

 

 

By: Latifa Carlos

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