Madina MP introduces Private Member’s Bill to abolish death penalty

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By Francis-Xavier SOSU

The Member of Parliament (MP) for Madina Francis Xavier Sosu has introduced another Private Members’ bill to parliament, this time, to abolish death sentence from Ghana’s constitution.

Mr. Sosu is seeking the legislature’s assistance to amend sections 46, 49, 49A, 180, 194 and 317A of the Criminal and Other Offences Act, 1960, (ACT 29).

In the bill, Mr. Sosu argued that the right to life is a fundamental human right that cannot be taken away because someone committed a crime including murder.

According to him, punishment all over the world has moved from that of retribution to reformative. “There are also several examples of people who were convicted and sentenced to death who later were found not to be guilty of the offences for which they were convicted.”

Citing global trends as an example, he stated that the international community has taken the lead to amend their laws to expunge death penalty.

Mr. Sosu recalled that in 2011 when delivering judgement in the supreme court case of Dexter Johnson v. the Republic [2011] 2 SCGLR 601@P702, the Court through Justice Dotse JSC said: “I am however of the view … the time has possibly come for the Parliament of Ghana to seriously consider whether to have a policy shift in the mandatory death penalty regime imposed on those convicted of murder…. It is only Parliament which can consider an amendment of the Criminal and other Offences Act, 1960, Act 29.”

He recalled that more than 10 years down the line, Parliament which is the legislative arm of government is yet to take any major step in this direction. This, he explained, compelled him to take the steps to introduce the bill to assist Parliament to take the concern a notch higher and begin processes to remove death penalty from Ghana’s statute books.

 Ghana’s position on the abolition of death penalty

Quoting some aspects of the Constitutional Review Commission’s report to support his argument, Mr. Sosu said the Commission in paragraph 75 on page 645 of its final report “recommends the replacement of the death penalty with imprisonment for life without parole.”

According to him, the recommendation was as a result of the wide range consultation by the commission.

He pointed out that on page 44 of the Government white Paper on the Constitutional Review Commission, Government stated its position that “Government accepts the recommendation of the Constitutional Review Commission that the death penalty in article 3 of the Constitution be completely abolished and that the penalty be replaced with imprisonment for life. The sanctity of life is a value so much engrained in the Ghanaian social psyche that it cannot be gambled away with judicial uncertainties.”

How to achieve the abolition goal

For Mr. Sosu, there are two ways to deal with the abolition of death penalty from Ghana’s laws. “We could do it by Constitutional amendment or with amendment of various provisions in the Criminal and Other Offences Act (Act 29) which prescribe death penalty as punishment,” he said.

He stated that because Article 3 of the 1992 Constitutional is an entrenched provision, any amendment would require a referendum. “This might be the reason for the delay in operationalizing the government white paper on the recommendations of the Constitutional review commission.”

The second approach in his view can be achieved by amending Act 29 which would lead to about 95% abolition of death penalty without constitutional amendment. “This argument has been forcefully argued by Amnesty International Ghana and Human Rights Lawyers like Lawyer Martin Kpebu,” he said.

To avoid cost, Mr. Sosu stressed that a simple amendment of the various provisions of Act 29 will cut out the expenses that will be incurred if a referendum should take place.

According to him, the death penalty being part of Ghana’s laws inflicts not only immerse psychological pain and torture on accused persons and assassination officers, but also smacks of practices of backward societies.

“In view of this, it is worth pointing out that Ghana has not applied the death penalty since 1993. There is therefore the need to amend sections 46, 49, 49A, 180, 194 and 317A of the Criminal and Other Offences Act, 1960, (Act 29). We must as a country take steps to expunge the death clause from our laws”, he said.

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