The University of Ghana School of Law in partnership with the Death Penalty Project and the Death Penalty Research Unit, at the University of Oxford, have held a special round table discussion on the theme “Death Penalty in Ghana”. The discussion brought together key experts in the field of criminal law and justice to discuss processes towards the total abolishment of the death penalty law in Ghana. Dr. Abdul Baasit Aziz Bamba, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana School of Law and keynote speaker at the event, in his presentation said “with an emerging global consensus to abolish the death penalty law in Ghana and around the world, it is important that we bear in mind that the death penalty has a constitutional and legal perspective which must be looked at and clearly understood to inform steps towards its abolishment.” Speaking on the future of the death penalty law, He stated that the discussion of the death penalty in Ghana is one which comes with a large number of complexities. “The death penalty discussion is a complex one because we have stipulations in our constitution which back the death penalty, having said that the law provides certain situations where the death penalty law cannot be imposed on offenders of the law, particularly murder. In a situation where a pregnant woman or a
juvenile commits murder, they are sent to life imprisonment and not given the death penalty.” Saul Lehrfreund, the Co-founder and Co-Executive Director of the Death Penalty Project, London, shared a presentation which highlighted Ghana’s move towards the total abolishment of the death penalty. In his presentation, he stressed the need for all stakeholders in Ghana’s justice system to play an active role in the discussions and activities to push for the amendment of the criminal statutes in parliament. “To help fully abolish the death penalty two key instruments of law come to play which are the criminal statutes and the constitution. The quickest way forward is to first push for the amendment of the criminal statutes which gives rise to the death penalty in Ghana, then we can tackle the constitution as the second step, since amending the constitution requires a lot of input as compared to changing the criminal statutes which is a law”. Mr. Lehrfreund disclosed that currently in Ghana, there are 168 men and women on death row with little or no means to appeal their convictions. Professor Carolyn Hoyle, Director of Graduate Studies (Research) and Director of the Death Penalty Research Unit, University of Oxford and Dr. Kofi Boakye, Senior Fellow, University of Ghana Psychology Department and Co-Director of African Institute for Crime, Policy and Governance Research made presentations of the findings of surveys carried out in other jurisdictions to better understand the reasons why some governments are hesitant towards the
abolishment of the death penalty in their country. “In our interaction with governments on the delay on abolishing the death penalty in their country, two main reasons which were prevalent were public opinion and a deterrent. This informed the survey we carried out to better understand the public’s opinion on the death penalty.
In the jurisdictions we worked in, we decided to ask in-depth questions about the death penalty, while creating various circumstances and measuring the public’s existing knowledge about the death penalty. At the end of this survey, we measured a high number of people calling for the abolishment of the law.” Professor Hoyle explained. “A survey of 2,500 Ghanaians revealed that majority of Ghanaians frown upon the death penalty law and only 8% still believe that the death penalty is appropriate for murder offences, because they believe that life is sacred. Finding humane ways to punish offenders is the better way to go as compared to the death penalty.” Dr. Kofi Boakye explained.