Ghana’s parliament has voted to abolish the death penalty for all crimes except high treason, formalizing what has been a de facto moratorium on executions for the past three decades.
Lawmakers endorsed the proposed amendment to the country’s criminal offense law during a televised session of parliament on Tuesday, in a vote praised by rights advocates. The measure goes now to the president who is expected to sign the bill into law.
Under the change, the sentences of 176 death row inmates, including six women would be commuted to life imprisonment.
"Ghana is upholding the constitutional and fundamental human right of everyone," said Enoch Jengre, program officer of Ghana’s Legal Resource Center. "No human being or institution should have the right to take the life of another."
Capital punishment is becoming less common on the African continent. According to the advocacy group World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, 26 African countries had outlawed the practice outright, while Ghana and 14 others had all but stopped executions, as of 2022.
Ghana’s last state execution was in 1993.
"By and large the general populace have accepted that (the death penalty) may not be useful," said Accra-based criminal lawyer Francis Gasu. The lawyer said judicial errors are too common, and police investigations are too flawed, to stand by the practice.
While abolishing the death penalty is popular among human rights groups and legal experts, not everyone in Ghana believes it should end. "It is going to encourage some people to engage in crime knowing that they will only end up in prison after conviction," said Raymond Kuudaah, a social worker in Accra.