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Hon. Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah, Member of Parliament for Ellembele, is demanding that the Judiciary should take a bold step and state its position on the death penalty law, as its continuous stay in the country’s statutory books is troubling.
According to him, even though Ghana has not recorded any incidence of execution by death penalty since 1993, there are reports of increasing number of death sentences.
Death penalty can be described as the judicially ordered execution of a prisoner as a punishment for a serious crime, often called a capital offense or a capital punishment.
In some jurisdictions, capital punishment is restricted to a small number of criminal offences, principally treason and murder.
Prisoners who have been sentenced to death are usually kept segregated from other prisoners in a special part of the prison, pending their execution.
It is common to hear people say that, society has always used punishment to discourage would-be criminals from unlawful action and since society has the highest interest in preventing murder, it should use the strongest punishment available to deter murder, and that is the death penalty.
Nonetheless, Hon. Kofi Buah told the parliamentary press corps yesterday that, the new Chief Justice, Justice Sophia Akuffo, lost the opportunity to tell the nation her position on the law when she appeared before the Appointment Committee of Parliament for vetting last Monday.
He expressed his dissatisfaction at answers on death penalty by Chief Justice, when she was answering questions on the subject during her vetting.
According to him, it was expected that, the new Chief Justice could have used the opportunity availed before her to explain and expatiate the law on contempt of court for the benefit of the ordinary Ghana, but she failed to do so.
In his view, it was important the Chief Justice clarifies her position on the death penalty, stating, that, “since the death penalty is still on the statutory books and until it is scrapped the courts were obliged to resort to it was unconvincing.”
While answering questions by the vetting committee prior to her approval and subsequent swearing-in by President Akufo-Addo, the Chief Justice stressed that the courts are obliged to resort to the death penalty and called on the members of parliament, as the representatives of the people, to take the necessary steps to remove the law if, in their view, it should be removed.
But in the opinion of Hon. Buah, the CJ gave a general answer to the issue, saying she could have stated her position on the matter.
“I think that in reviewing the report, I have a specific issue, she couldn’t state her personal view on the death penalty but I think it’s very important that the people of Ghana must know her opinion on the death penalty.”
The Ellembele MP contended that Justice Sophia Akuffo should have stated her personal view on the matter, adding that “even though it’s in the statutory books, as Chief Justice, she should have gone beyond to state her view on it.”
Going forward, Hon. Buah said, “We should know the views of the justices of the high court, on say, the death penalty, their views on abortion, their views on gay rights and other important issues. So that when it comes to empanelling judges to deal in critical issues we have some ideas about their positions on some specific issues.”
He however admitted, there was no doubt Justice Sophia Akuffo is highly qualified and has done a very good job as a justice at the Supreme Court and has carried herself well.
“Death penalty imposes an irrevocable sentence. Once an inmate is executed, nothing can be done to make amends if a mistake has been made. There is considerable evidence that many mistakes have been made in sentencing people to death,” Buah concluded.