The Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) has officially opposed the death penalty in all circumstances, declaring its support to any move to abolish capital punishment in the country.
Director of Legal Service at GAF, Brig. General Benjamin Amoah-Boakye, who made the declaration on behalf of the Chief of the Defence Staff, said the use of the death penalty as a criminal punishment infringes on the inviolability and dignity of the person.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ engagement on a proposed bill to amend the Criminal Offences Act (Act 29) and the Armed Forces Act (Act 105) to end the practice, Brigadier General Amoah-Boakye disclosed that already the Armed Forces Regulation Board had begun working to amend some of the provisions in the Armed Forces Act, including the death penalty.
“I have been a prosecutor for about 25 years in GAF, and I have never prosecuted anybody for any offence that requires the imposition of the death penalty. We find it in our books alright, but as most of you have said, it is just on paper. We don’t implement them, and so, I also want to ask the question: why the need for them?
“My board is recommending for the abolishing of death penalty. By way of procedure, we are reviewing all the regulations, some dating back to the 60s, and because it is quite heavy, it is taking quite a long time.
“So, if we have this process that has been initiated, that will single out those provisions in the Armed Forces Act to be dealt separately, we will gladly support that. I must say that I have the backing of the Chief of the Defence Staff to make this statement that I have made,” he stressed.
He continued, “We are all for it, and whatever support that is required, just as we’ve done today, you can count on us, and we will be there to support.”
Brigadier General Amoah-Boakye said the GAF’s regulations are subject to the constitution, adding, “We are subject to two systems of law. So technically speaking, if the constitution says this is the law, we have no option but to amend our laws to suit that.”
The Member of Parliament for Madina, Francis-Xavier Sosu, who is sponsoring the private member’s bill, said the consultation was meant for the stakeholders to share their views on the proposed amendment of the Criminal and Other Offences Act and the Armed Forces Act, with the view of achieving up to about 95% abolishing of the death penalty from the country’s statute’s books.
“The issue of death penalty and the need to abolish it has been something on the minds of most reformers. The last Constitutional Review Commission found it very necessary to propose that the penalty of death needed to be substituted with life imprisonment,” he noted.
According to him, unfortunately since 2011, the nation has not had the opportunity for this constitutional amendment that allows Ghana to take death penalty from its statute’s books.
A Court of Appeal’s judge, Justice Sir Dennis Adjei, reiterated that death penalty remains a retributive punishment which defies logic, thereby making a mockery of justice, by not applying evenly in all criminal cases, except murder and treasonable offences.
For him, the mere fact that a number of presidents have found it unnecessary to sign execution warrants is clear that the country does not need the law again, since it has not lived up to its billing of deterrence.