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31.05.2007 General News

Death Penalty

The debate as to whether the application of the death penalty is an affront to human dignity or detracts from the fundamental human rights of the individual is not a settled matter.

The world has not been at ad idem on the issue, although the campaign for the abolition of the death penalty has gained ground, owing to sustained advocacy by Amnesty International.

In the particular case of Ghana, Article 13(1) of the 1992 Constitution provides 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.”

The fact is that whereas no person can create a human being, there are times when certain criminals become so notorious and exert too much influence to disturb and undermine the peace, security and safety of all others that it becomes desirable for society to be freed from such deviants.

There is, however, the other side that sometimes those convicted of crimes resulting in the death penalty are, indeed, innocent of the crimes for which they are convicted.

The point, then, is that both sides have a case. One can never state unequivocally that the enforcement or abolition of the death penalty provides society with a better choice or option.

However, in a situation where the death penalty is in the statute books but is never enforced, it makes better meaning to remove it. That is one issue which may favour those advocating the abolition of capital punishment from the statutes of this country.

As it is, 113 convicts are on death row at the Nsawam Medium Security Prisons. Since 1993, no execution is known to have taken place. However, on a daily basis, prisoners on death penalty go through some trauma, not knowing when they will be executed but always fearing that they may be executed the next day.

Since we lack the courage to give the directive for the convicts to be executed, it would be better to abolish the death penalty to let the world know that we are among those who have done away with that penalty.

We must not continue to burden the President with the onerous responsibility of either commuting death sentences imposed on convicts or enforcing the death penalty. We have to decide collectively to bring about certainty over the issue of death penalty.