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June 15 2010 | GHANA

Ghana

That's why death penalty can be abolished

 
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Public Agenda

Ghana: Heed Call to Abolish Death Penalty

EDITORIAL

Human rights and human dignity are universally acknowledged as fundamental norms that form the basis of politically organized society. Obviously, the death penalty is one piece of legislation that directly contradicts this premise. It is also said that the death penalty is based on a misconception of justice.

Unfortunately, the Constitution of Ghana, which guarantees the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms in Chapter Five, endorses the death penalty in Article 13. In fact, Article 13 (1) states that "No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally except in the exercise of the execution of a sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence under the laws of Ghana of which he has been convicted."

On Wednesday, this provision apparently inspired a Ho High Court presided over by Mr. Justice Essel Mensah to sentence Emmanuel Adzanku, a 40-year-old palm wine tapper of Matse Tsipe, to death by hanging for murdering one William Addo also of Matse Tsipe. This was after a seven-member jury found Adzanku guilty of murder after a trial that lasted for seven years.

The ruling underscored one point: that even though Ghana has always set the pace for others in human rights and democracy, it has been overtaken in this particular case by nations such South Africa, Angola, Cote d?Iviore, Liberia, Guinea Bissau and Senegal.

On the other hand, many are consoled by the fact that for more than a decade, persons sentenced to death have rather been confined to condemned cells. This has been interpreted to mean that Ghana is, to all intents and purposes, death penalty abolitionist in practice.

One would ask why is it that we have the death penalty on our statute books but it is not implemented. Obviously, it is not a good law.

We at the Public Agenda hold the view that the Constitution Review Commission can perhaps kick start the process to abolish the death penalty by considering Article 13 (1) of the Constitution for review if it is not already listed for review.

On the other hand, we need political will to do so. It is a long held view that Ghana's politicians have not formally expunged the law because of the fear that they might lose the backing of a sizeable portion of the public who support the death penalty.

Some say that the law exists to deter people who might contemplate engaging in capital crimes. This perception is negated by the fact that the Ghana Police Service admits that the existence of the death penalty on Ghana's statute books has not led to any significant reduction in capital crimes.

This calls for education of the public; there is an obligation on all of us - politicians, civil society, media, etc. - to actually educate the public about the reason why we think the death penalty should be abolished. Our human rights records are at stake, Let's act now!

 

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