Death sentences commuted in Ghana – time for abolition

The outgoing President of Ghana, John Kufuor, commuted all death sentences in the country. Amnesty International welcomed the action and urged the new President of Ghana, John Atta Mills, to seize the moment and take immediate steps to abolish the death penalty in law.Several influential figures in Ghana have, in recent years, voiced their opposition to the death penalty, including the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General who is reported to have said in 2007 that the death penalty has no deterrent effect. In meetings with Amnesty International in April 2008, the former Minister of Justice, as well as members of Parliament, underlined the need for a debate around death penalty in Ghana. While no death row prisoner has been executed since 1993, the death penalty continues to be in the statute books and death sentences continue to be imposed. In 2008, 3 people were sentenced to death and approximately 105 prisoners were on death row, including three women.As of today, 138 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. The continent of Africa is largely free of executions, with only seven of the 53 African Union member states known to have carried out executions in 2007: Botswana, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Libya, Somalia and Sudan. Amnesty International made the abolition of the death penalty on of the key points in a seven point human rights agenda for the new President.