The death penalty is a controversial and highly emotive issue in many countries around the world, including Ghana. While there are arguments on both sides of the debate, there is growing consensus that the use of the death penalty is no longer necessary or effective in modern society.
As such, there is an urgent need for Ghana to completely strike out the death penalty from its statutes.
The death penalty, also known as capital punishment, is the highest form of punishment that can be imposed on a person by a legal system. It involves the execution of an individual who has been convicted of a serious crime.
In Ghana, the death penalty is still legal and can be imposed for certain crimes, such as murder and treason. However, there is a growing call to abolish the death penalty in the country
First and foremost, the death penalty is a violation of human rights and the fundamental right to life. Governments have a duty to protect the human rights of their citizens, including the right to life.
The use of the death penalty is a clear violation of this fundamental right, and it sends a message that human life is not valued or protected. Moreover, the death penalty is a cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment that violates international human rights law.
It exposes individuals to the risk of torture and other forms of cruel treatment, which is unacceptable in any civilized society.
Secondly, the death penalty is an ineffective and flawed tool of justice. There is a wealth of evidence that shows that the death penalty has no deterrent effect on crime. In fact, countries that have abolished the death penalty have not seen an increase in the rate of serious crimes, indicating that the death penalty is not necessary to reduce crime. Moreover, the death penalty is a flawed tool of justice because it is irreversible. Mistakes can and do happen in the criminal justice system, and innocent people can be sentenced to death. Once a person is executed, there is no way to undo the injustice that has been done.
Thirdly, the use of the death penalty is fraught with racial and socioeconomic biases. The use of the death penalty is often influenced by factors such as race, ethnicity, religion, and social status.
Poor and marginalized communities are disproportionately affected by the death penalty, as they lack the resources to mount a robust defense. Moreover, there is evidence of racial bias in the application of the death penalty. Studies have shown that black defendants are more likely to receive the death penalty than white defendants, even when the crime and circumstances are similar.
In light of these compelling arguments, Ghana must prioritize urgent abolition of the death penalty and completely have it struck out from its statutes. In doing so, Ghana would be joining a growing number of countries that have recognized the inhumanity and ineffectiveness of the death penalty.
By abolishing the death penalty, Ghana would be sending a powerful message that human life is sacred and worthy of protection. It would also be taking a significant step towards promoting human rights and justice for all.
The need to abolish the death penalty in Ghana is based on several reasons. Firstly, the death penalty is an irreversible punishment. Once a person has been executed, there is no going back. However, there have been cases in Ghana and other countries where people have been wrongly convicted of crimes and later exonerated. If such a person had been executed, there can be no way of bringing them back to life.
Secondly, the application of the death penalty has been shown to be biased in many cases. In Ghana, the death penalty is often imposed on poor and marginalized individuals who cannot afford a good defense lawyer. On the other hand, wealthy individuals who commit the same crimes are often able to escape the death penalty due to their financial resources. This means that the death penalty is often applied in a discriminatory manner, which is against the principles of justice.
Thirdly, the use of the death penalty has not been shown to be an effective deterrent against crime. While it may be thought that the fear of execution would deter people from committing crimes, research has shown that this is not the case. In fact, countries that have abolished the death penalty have not seen an increase in crime rates. This suggests that there are more effective ways of reducing crime, such as addressing the root causes of criminal behavior.
Another argument against the death penalty is that it goes against the principles of human rights. The right to life is a fundamental human right that is enshrined in many international treaties and conventions. The use of the death penalty violates this right and can be seen as a form of cruel and inhuman punishment. Furthermore, the use of the death penalty can lead to other human rights abuses, such as the use of torture to extract confessions from suspects.
Other steps that Ghana can take to abolish the death penalty include to repeal any laws that provide for the death penalty and replace them with alternative forms of punishment.
Additionally, Ghana can commute the sentences of individuals who are currently on death row to life imprisonment.
Ghana can establish a national commission to study the impact of the death penalty on society and recommend alternative measures to reduce crime
Opponents of the death penalty also argue that it is a costly form of punishment. The cost of keeping an inmate on death row and carrying out the execution can be much higher than the cost of keeping them in prison for life.
In addition, the lengthy appeals process that accompanies death penalty cases can be costly for the state. This money could be better spent on improving the criminal justice system or addressing other social issues.
There are also practical reasons for abolishing the death penalty in Ghana. The country has been struggling with overcrowding in its prisons, with many inmates awaiting trial for years.
The use of the death penalty adds to this problem, as death row inmates also occupy prison space. By abolishing the death penalty, Ghana can free up space in its prisons and reduce the burden on its criminal justice system.
The need to abolish the death penalty in Ghana is not a new issue. However, the recent global spotlight on social justice issues has renewed the call to end capital punishment. There have been some positive developments in this area, such as the passage of the Juvenile Justice Act in 2003, which abolished the death penalty for offenders below the age of 18. However, there is more work to be done to fully abolish the death penalty in all cases.
In conclusion, the use of the death penalty is a violation of human rights, an ineffective and flawed tool of justice, and is fraught with biases.
It is an irreversible punishment that has been shown to be applied in a biased manner and is not an effective deterrent against crime. It also goes against the principles of human rights and can be a costly form of punishment. Practical reasons also exist for abandoning the death penalty, such as addressing the prison overcrowding problem.
Therefore, Ghana must swiftly move into action now and do the needful to ensure the death penalty is completely struck off from its statutes to promote justice, human rights, and send a powerful message that human life is sacred.
By taking these measures, Ghana would be joining a growing movement of countries that have recognized the futility and inhumanity of the death penalty.
It is time for Ghana to join the global movement towards ending capital punishment and adopt more humane and effective ways of dealing with crime.
We must ensure that we protect the human rights of individuals and promote justice across the world by prioritizing the abolishment of the death penalty.
Source: Joseph Kobla Wemakor
The writer is a seasoned journalist, National SDGs Champion and Founder/Executive Director of Human Rights Reporters Ghana (HRRG)