HUMAN rights organisation, Amnesty International (AI), has reiterated its strong opposition to the death penalty sentence in Ghana’s legal system, thus calling on the central government to totally abolish, arguing that it is “inimical and denial” of the fundamental human rights of victims.
According to AI, Ghana was part of countries that have abolished the execution of prisoners on death row, but was yet to stop sentencing “criminals” to death by getting rid of the punishment from its legal system.
In this regard, the AI entreated Ghanaian authorities to ensure that prisoners were provided with adequate food, medical care and access to recreational and educational facilities, in line with international standards, stressing that the death penalty sentence was a complete violation to the person’s life.
Speaking at the launch of the 2018 Global Death Penalty Report in Accra, Country Director of Amnesty International, Mr Robert Amoafo Akoto, stressed the urgent need for the central government to scrap the death penalty and end grim conditions for scores on death row in the country.
As part of the launch, members of AI earlier petitioned Parliament to ensure the abolishment of the death sentence in Ghana.
He indicated that all people have the right to life and “we all have rights to be freed from cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, arguing that keeping people with mental or intellectual disabilities on death row violated international human rights law, and put their safety and that of other prisoners at risk.
According to him, these were human rights that people have, regardless of whatever crimes they have been convicted of, stressing that the flaws in the death penalty were too deep to fix.
Flanked by the President of Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Mr. Affail Monney, Mr Akoto bemoaned that the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated, adding that more than 150 people sent to death row in the United States of America (USA) have later been exonerated, and others been executed despite serious doubt about their guilt.
Mr Akoto strongly argued that there was no evidence that death penalty deters crime or improves public safety.
In some countries, he pointed out that the death penalty was used by people in power to punish their political opponents.
According to him, Ghana was considered abolitionist in practice by AI because it retains the death penalty for ordinary crimes such as murder but has not executed anyone in the ten years and is believed to have established the practice of not carrying out executions.
He expressed disappointment in government of failing to implement the recommendation of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) set up by the late former President Prof. John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills which recommended that the death penalty be abolished under a new constitution and replaced with life imprisonment without parole.
“The 2011 constitutional review committee recommendations have signaled the end of the road for the death penalty in Ghana, but six years on, courts continue to hand down this cruel punishment, while death row prisoners remain trapped in cramped conditions, separated from other prisoners, and with no access to educational or recreational activities,” he said.
He went on to state that the CRC further recommended that the capital punishment doesn’t always succeed in providing closure or a sense of justice to the families and friends of victims.
On the way forward, Mr Akoto emphasised the need for Ghana to expressly abolish the death penalty in the constitution for all crimes, adding that the death penalty is a wicked and torturous punishment that must not be practised by Ghana.
He urged the government to establish an official moratorium on execution and also review the cases of all death row prisoners to identify any potential miscarriage of justice.
Story: Freeman KORYEKPOR AWLESU
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