Ghana Accepts Constitution Review Commission’s Recommendation to Abolish the Death Penalty
On July 10, 2012, the Constitution Review Commission’s recommendation for abolition of the death penalty was accepted by the Ghanaian government in a White Paper which stated that the death penalty would be replaced with life imprisonment in Art. 13 of the constitution. This is an enormously significant development for this West African country. The White Paper added: “The sanctity of life is a value so much engrained in the Ghanaian social psyche that it cannot be gambled away with judicial uncertainties.”
Ghana is defined as an abolitionist de facto state by the United Nations, meaning that it has not carried out executions in the past 10 years. The last execution took place in 1993. No Ghanaian president has signed or approved executions since then. In the last three United Nations General Assembly Moratorium votes on the use of the death penalty—held in 2007, 2008 and 2010—Ghana abstained from voting.
In January 2010, the President of Ghana, Mr. John Evans Atta Mills, established the Constitution Review Commission as a separate entity. The Commission was formed to submit recommendations—in consultation with Ghanaian citizens—regarding amendments to the constitution. For the last two years, there has been national debate about the efficacy and necessity of the death penalty in Ghana. Moreover, the National Constitutional Conference, held in 2011 in Accra, raised the issue of retention or abolition of the death penalty. At this conference, a spokesperson for Hands Off Cain and the OSCE Committee on Human Rights, Democracy and Humanitarian Issues recommended abolishing the death penalty to the Constitution Review Commission. Although the Commission’s recommendation for abolition of the death penalty has been accepted by the Government of Ghana, this amendment will likely not go into effect until after this year’s elections. It is estimated that 83,616 submissions were received from Ghanaian citizens—both at home and abroad—concerning constitutional amendments. The process that led to the government’s decision to abolish the death penalty illustrates the importance of international and national dialogue to bring about the conditions necessary for abolition.