Although no Ghanaian president since 1993 has signed the death warrants of convicts placed on death row, Ghana’s High Courts continue to pronounce death sentences on convicts, often in cases of murder.
In the year 2020, three persons were sentenced to death after trial, according to the latest Death Sentences and Executions report of Amnesty International.
The number is the lowest recorded in an entire year in the last decade.
Past records in Amnesty International’s report show that the year 2012 saw the highest number of people sentenced to death by Ghana’s courts, 27, since 2010.
Available data from the Prisons Service shows that majority of those sentenced to death were for the crime of murder and that most of the convicts were men.
Amnesty International’s latest report published on April 21, 2021, found that while executions globally had declined for the third consecutive year, some significant developments such as America’s resumption of executions after 17 years and Egypt’s 300% increase in the number of executions undertaken occurred in the year under review.
Within six months in 2020, the Donald Trump administration had executed 10 people.
“The unprecedented challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic were not enough to deter 18 countries from carrying out executions in 2020. While there was an overall trend of decline, some countries pursued or even increased the number of executions carried out, indicating a chilling disregard for human life at a time when the world’s attention focused on protecting people from a deadly virus,” said Amnesty International.
Amnesty International remarked that while countries including Ghana still imposed the death penalty, “the overall picture in 2020 was positive,” with a total of over 483 executions recorded across the world against 2019’s over 657 cases.
By the end of 2020, there were about 160 people on death row in Ghana, five of whom were women.
The number includes six foreigners; a Beninois, two Burkinabes and three Nigerians. Between March and June 2020, nine inmates who were on death row had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
In Africa, Ghana trails behind countries such as Nigeria, Egypt, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Mali, DR Congo and five others in terms of countries with high numbers of death sentences handed out within a year.
There have been many calls on the State of Ghana to abolish capital punishment in its laws to champion human rights, but those calls have not yielded any positive result.
In December 2020, United Nations General Assembly adopted its eighth resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The resolution was adopted by an overwhelming majority of UN member states.
123 countries voted in favour of the resolution while 38 voted against it.
Ghana was among the 24 countries that abstained from voting.