Parliamentary decision: Ghana votes out capital punishment

On Tuesday, Ghana's Parliament voted overwhelmingly to eliminate the death penalty from its legal system. This decision makes Ghana the most recent in a string of African nations to do away with capital punishment, marking an essential step forward in the broader trend of human rights progression.

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Since 1993, no person has been executed in Ghana, yet the Ghana prisons service reported last year that a staggering 176 individuals remained on death row. The legislative development will see these condemned individuals’ sentences commuted, and future capital offences will incur life imprisonment, as opposed to the ultimate sentence of death.

The bill, now awaiting the assent of President Nana Akufo-Addo to become law, amends the Criminal Offences Act, substituting the death penalty with life imprisonment. It represents an important shift in the nation’s judicial system and its stance towards the fundamental rights of citizens.

Francis-Xavier Sosu, the parliamentarian who tabled the bill, hailed it as a significant advancement in Ghana’s human rights record. Speaking to Reuters, Sosu shared insights into the country’s extensive preparatory work for this legislative change: “We have conducted research, from the constitutional review to opinion polls, and they all show that majority of Ghanaians want the death penalty removed.”

The move has not only made headlines domestically but has also caught the attention of global human rights organisations. The Death Penalty Project, a London-based NGO, who worked alongside Ghanaian Parliamentarians confirmed Ghana as the 29th African nation and 124th globally to abolish the death penalty.

This decision by Ghana follows similar ones made by Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, and Zambia, who have all abolished the death penalty within the past two years. This surge of change reflects a shift in societal attitudes towards capital punishment across Africa, with nations increasingly recognizing the inherent right to life and acknowledging the inherent flaws in implementing capital punishment.

The abolition of the death penalty in Ghana sets a precedent for other African countries yet to make this move and contributes to the global momentum against capital punishment. The action taken by Ghana’s parliament sends a powerful message that the sanctity of human life is inviolable and that, even within the judicial system, there must be limits to the punishment imposed.

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