This article was originally published in The Ghana News Agency, 26 July 2023.
The DPP, in a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency on Wednesday, described the abolition as a huge win for human rights.
Ghana’s Parliament on Tuesday, July 25, abolished the death penalty for all ordinary crimes (including murder, genocide, piracy and smuggling of gold and diamonds and attempted murder in prison). It passed a Private Member’s Bill to amend the Criminal Offences (Amendment) Act, tabled by Mr Francis Xavier-Sosu, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Madina.
The statement said working alongside Ghanaian Parliamentarians and campaign groups, the London legal action NGO – the DPP- played a pivotal role in the run-up to the decision.
It said Ghana was the 29th country to abolish the death penalty in Africa and the 124th globally.
“There are currently 170 men and six women on its death row, whose death sentences will now be replaced by life imprisonment,” it said.
The statement said Ghana had not carried out an execution since 1993, but until Tuesday, its courts were still imposing death sentences, and its death row grew every year.
It said in cases of murder, the death penalty was the mandatory punishment, leaving judges with no discretion to impose a lesser sentence, adding that last year seven people were sentenced to death. The DPP had been active in Ghana for more than a decade, providing free representation and support to those facing the death penalty, working with Ghana NGO, the Legal Resources Centre (LRC).
The statement said in 2010, when the DPP was just beginning to work in Ghana, the abolition of capital punishment was recommended by Ghana’s Constitution Review Commission. The country came close to enacting this in 2012 but the path the government tried to adopt in amending the Constitution proved challenging, and in the end it failed.
However, the DPP advised that it would be possible to abolish the death penalty for ordinary crimes by amending the criminal statute, which
had been achieved.
It said the DPP worked closely with Mr Sosu after he introduced the Bill last year, which was referred by the Speaker to the Committee on
Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs adding that its recommendations were unequivocal.
The DPP also engaged with Ghana’s policymakers, civil society organisations, the Bar Association, religious leaders and the diplomatic community. The statement expressed gratitude for the immense support provided by the British High Commission and the Australian High Commission and other diplomats. It said all those efforts helped to shift Ghana’s national conversation around capital punishment.
Madam Harriet Thompson, the British High Commissioner to Ghana, said: “In abolishing the Death Penalty for ordinary crimes, Ghana joins the growing family of Commonwealth countries that have taken this historic step.”
“The UK opposes the Death Penalty in all circumstances, and we stand together with Ghana to mark this achievement.”
Mr Sosu, on his part, said: “On death row, prisoners woke up thinking this could be their last day on earth. They were like the living dead:
psychologically, they had ceased to be humans.”
“Abolishing the death penalty shows that we are determined as a society not to be inhumane, uncivil, closed, retrogressive and dark.”
“It opens the way for further realisation of a free, open, progressive, inclusive and secure society instead, and re ects our common belief that
the sanctity of life is inviolable.”
The Death Penalty Project is a legal action NGO supported by London Legal Firm, Simons Muirhead Burton LLP. For more than three decades, the DPP had worked to protect the human rights of those facing the death penalty.