Amnesty International Ghana has petitioned Parliament to amend the law to abolish the death penalty in the country’s sentencing regime for all crimes.
It again demanded that pending the constitutional abolition of the death penalty, Parliament should replace the death sentence as punishment for any crime, with prison terms in the Criminal Code and other relevant legislation.
About 150 members of Amnesty International yesterday embarked on about a 15-minute walk from the Ghana International Press Centre to Parliament House to present their petition, which was jointly received by the Deputy Minority Leader, Mr James Avedzi, and the Majority Chief Whip, Mr Kwasi Ameyaw-Cheremeh, on behalf of the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Michael Oquaye.
Donning black T-shirts, the members held placards with inscriptions such as “Abolish the Death Penalty – Give Life a Chance”; “Make Prisons More Humane Now” and “Abolish Now”.
The Board Treasurer of Amnesty International Ghana, Mrs Cynthia Adu-Darko, who presented the petition, said the members and their supporters wanted Parliament to declare that the death penalty “is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and a degrading punishment and a violation of the right to life”.
“I emphasise that the death penalty simply does not deter crime more than imprisonment,” she said.
In the petition, Amnesty International Ghana again urged Parliament to pass a resolution for the government to ratify, without reservations, the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
It also requested the legislature to pass a resolution for the President to commute the death sentences of all death row prisoners to terms of imprisonment.
The group called for a resolution for the government to establish an official moratorium on executions and review of the cases of all death row prisoners to identify any potential miscarriages of justice.
Another demand was for Parliament to pass a resolution for the provision of all death row prisoners, regardless of means, with adequate and effective legal aid to pursue any appeals against their convictions and death sentences.
Mrs Adu-Darko said she was encouraged that 20 sub-Saharan African countries had already abolished death penalty for all crimes.
“The world is moving away from the death penalty. In 1977 when Amnesty International began its campaign for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, only 16 countries had abolished it.
Today, 106 countries, a majority of the countries in the world, have outlawed the death penalty,” she said.
Mrs Adu-Darko noted that in 2012, the government issued a White Paper on the Report of the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) where it accepted the CRC’s recommendations to abolish the death penalty in the Constitution and to replace it with life imprisonment without parole, stating: “The sanctity of life is a value so much ingrained in the Ghanaian social psyche that it cannot be gambled away with judicial uncertainties.”
Receiving the petition, Mr Avedzi and Mr Ameyaw-Cheremeh promised to deliver the petition to the Speaker.
They said the Speaker might refer the petition to a relevant committee of Parliament for consideration.