President Akufo-Addo has lamented the delay by state actors in Ghana’s quest to remove the death penalty from the statute book, arguing that the move is “long overdue”.
Ghana is yet to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a subsidiary agreement to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which aims to abolish the death penalty.
The Optional Protocol was created on 15 December 1989 and entered into force on 11 July 1991.
Speaking at Jubilee House in Accra as a delegation from Amnesty International Ghana (AI Ghana) paid a courtesy call on him, President Akufo-Addo responded directly to AI’s proposal that the death penalty be abolished.
The president said given that Ghana has made a conscious effort not to invoke the death penalty on anyone sentenced to death for the past thirty years, the nation ought to ”do the logical thing” by removing capital punishment altogether from the statute book.
Terrorism and the death penalty
President Akufo-Addo however raised issue with how abolition of the death penalty might apply to individuals who commit acts of terrorism. It will be important to give consideration to how the law would work in relation to terrorists if there were no death penalty, he said.
“A lot of people have come to me who in principle support the abolition of the death penalty,” he told the AI Ghana delegation. “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 involve 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 the education and sensitisation [about the abolition of the death penalty] is sufficiently well laid to address issues like that,” the president said.
“Nevertheless, I think that the principle is one that we should move towards in Ghana. In our case in Ghana, since we have 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’s 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 [has their sentence] automatically commuted to life imprisonment even though their treatment is still somewhat differentiated,” he said.
Francis Nyantakyi, the chairman of Amnesty International Ghana, led the delegation, which included the MP for Madina, Francis Xavier Sosu, to Jubilee House. Nyantakyi said that Ghana can succeed in abolishing the death penalty by amending the Armed Forces Act 1960 (Act 105) and the Criminal and Other Offences Act 1960 (Act 29).
These two laws, he said, contain the provisions in our laws that support the application of the death penalty. He also observed that some progress has been made towards amending the law since AI last raised the matter with President Akufo-Addo at Jubilee House in February 2020.
“A private member’s bill has been introduced in Parliament by Francis Xavier Sosu, MP for Madina and ranking member of Parliament’s select committee on legal, constitutional and parliamentary affairs,” Nyantakyi told the president.
“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,” he said.
Amnesty International is a global movement of more than ten million people who take injustice personally. The aim of the organisation is to campaign for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.
AI is independent of any political ideology, economic interest or religion, and its members believe that no government is beyond scrutiny and no situation is beyond hope.
AI investigates and exposes the facts, whenever and wherever abuses occur. It also lobbies governments and other powerful groups such as big business to make sure that they respect international law.
AI also aims to tell the powerful stories of the people they work with, mobilising millions of supporters around the world to campaign for change and stand in defence of activists on the frontline, at the same time supporting people to claim their rights through education and training.