The High Court in Accra sentenced six of the ten people accused of orchestrating a coup against the Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo government to death by hanging on Wednesday, January 24, 2024.
The court presided over by Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, Justice Hafisata Amaleboba, and Justice Stephen Oppong found the six accused persons, including Donya Kafui, Bright Allan Debrah Ofosu, Yohannes Zikpi, Warrant Officer Class Two Esther Saan Dekuwine, Lance Corporal Ali Solomon, and Corporal Sylvester Akanpewon, guilty of treason or conspiracy to commit treason.
This sentence is shaping to become a battle between the executive arm of government which is headed by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and the legislative arm which is headed by the Speaker of Parliament Alban Bagbin.
The high court judges appear to have relied on the Criminal Office Act, 1960 (Act 29) which proscribes the death sentence to persons guilty of crimes like treason and other high crimes including murder.
But there is a contention whether this law is the existing law or whether it has been amended.
Some legislators, including the Members of Parliament for Madina, Francis-Xavier Sosu, have contended that the death-by-hanging sentence meted out by the court cannot stand because the law has been armed for such crimes to be punished by life imprisonment.
“Death Penalty Abolition – Ghana’s status of having abolished death penalty for ordinary crimes is same. The Criminal Offenses (Amendment) Act, 2023, (Act 1101) passed by @GhanaParliament & Assented to by @NAkufoAddo on Aug 2, 2023 and Gazetted the same day is the current law,” he wrote on X on Thursday, January 25, 2024.
He provided some documents to prove that the said amended act was “passed by parliament and assented to by the president” on August 2, 2023.
The presidency has however maintained that the president has never signed the amendment into law.
President Akufo-Addo, in a memorandum to the Parliament of Ghana, communicated his refusal to give assent to the Criminal Offences Amendment Bill, Criminal Offences Amendment Bill (2) and Armed Forces Amendment Bill citing their breach of article 108 of the constitution as private members bills.
However, addressing the matter in detail on Friday, December 22, 2023, Alban Bagbin said the President had also given his assent to the Criminal Offences Amendment Bill on the abolishment of the death penalty far back in August this year and gazetted as Criminal Offences Amendment Act, 2023, Act 1101 published and made available to the public.
“By a letter dated 3rd August 2023 assented to on the same day by the President, the bill was gazetted as a Criminal Offences Amendment Act 2023, ACT 110 published and made available to the public. So, it was no longer a bill but an ACT,” Bagbin narrated.
He continued: “The foundation of my disagreement with the President’s position and refusal to assent to the three bills is anchored on four critical aspects of the Constitutional interpretation procedural adherence.”
The speaker has recently indicated that he would be taking the matter to the 3rd arm of government, the judiciary, for the court to make a final determination on the matter.
So, now the fate of Donya Kafui, Bright Allan Debrah Ofosu, Yohannes Zikpi, Warrant Officer Class Two Esther Saan Dekuwine, Lance Corporal Ali Solomon, and Corporal Sylvester Akanpewon would once again be determined by the court.
The ‘six convicted coup plotters’ are likely to be hanged depending on whether the judiciary sides with the executive or the legislator, that is if they lose their appeals.
View the amended act below:
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