government: constitutional democracy
state of civil and political rights: Free
constitution: 28 April 1992
legal system: based on English law and customary law
legislative system: unicameral Parliament
judicial system: Supreme Court; High Court; Court of Appeal; regional tribunals
religion: Christian 68.8%, Muslim 15.9%, traditional 8.5%, other 0.7%, none 6.1%
death row: 137 (as of 31 December 2015, including 3 women and 7 foreigners)
year of last executions: 0-7-1993
death sentences: 0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
1st Optional Protocol to the Covenant
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights
Statute of the International Criminal Court (which excludes the death penalty)
The death penalty has been in Ghana’s statute books since the inception of English common law in the
country in 1874.Ghana still retains the death penalty for armed robbery,
treason and first-degree murder.
There have been no executions since July 1993, when 12 prisoners convicted of
robbery and murder were executed by firing squad. However, death sentences
continue to be imposed.
In 2015, according to the Ghana Prisons Service, 18 people were sentenced to death for murder. In 2014, the death sentences were 9 and 14 in 2013.
As of 31 December 2015, there were 137 people on death row, including 3 women and 7 foreigners. Some of them have been on death row for as long as 10 years.
On 15 June 2012, the White Paper on the Report of the Constitution Review
Commission was made public with a Gazette notification. The Government of
Ghana, among many others, accepted the Commission’s recommendation to abolish
the death penalty, replacing it with life imprisonment. “The sanctity of life
is a value so much engrained in the Ghanaian social psyche that it cannot be
gambled away with judicial uncertainties,” declares the White Paper, signed by
John Evans Atta Mills, President of the Republic of Ghana. A five-member
Implementation Committee was set up with the mandate to implement the
recommendations accepted by the Government. The Constitution Review Commission
was inaugurated by President Mills on 11 January 2010 to undertake a
consultative review of 1992 Constitution, and on 20 December 2011 it submitted
its Report to the President, who thanked the Commission for the work done.
On 17 March 2014, the Constitution Review and Implementation Committee (CRIC)
submitted a draft bill for the amendment of entrenched provisions in the 1992
Constitution to the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, the Chairman of
the CRIC, Professor Emmanuel Victor Oware Dankwah, said in an interview with
the Daily Graphic in Accra. The draft bill calls for the abolition of the death
penalty and asks for it to be substituted with life imprisonment. It also asks
that the prerogative of mercy should not be extended to people who have
committed high treason, treason, genocide, murder or narcotic offences, except
in circumstances determined by a medical board. The submission of the draft
bill paves the way towards the conduct of a referendum to decide whether or not
Ghanaians are in favour of the amendments to the Constitution. From the
Attorney-General, the bill is expected to be submitted to the Cabinet for
discussion, after which it will be referred to Parliament and later to the
Council of State. The bill will then be sent back to Parliament for it to give
its approval for the conduct of the referendum. The referendum is likely to be
held concurrently with the district assembly elections in November 2014, Prof.
Dankwah noted. Forty per cent of the electorate is required to participate in
the referendum and 75 per cent of that figure is required to vote in favour of
the amendment before the President gives accent to it.
On 1 July 2013, President John Dramani Mahama granted amnesty to 870 prisoners
to commemorate the 53rd Republic Anniversary in accordance with Article 72 of
the Constitution of Ghana and based on the criteria laid down by the Prisons
Service Council. About 33 prisoners who had been on the death row and served
ten years and more, have had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
Another 20 people, who were serving life sentences and have served at least 10
years and above, have had their sentences commuted to a defined term of 20
years. He was the Vice President of Ghana from 2009 to 2012, and he took office
as President on 24 July 2012 following the death of his predecessor, President
John Atta Mills. He was elected to serve his first term as president in
December 2012 election.
On 23 July 2014, a statement issued by Deputy Minister of the Interior James
Agalga said President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana had granted amnesty to 1,104
prisoners in commemoration of 54th Republic Anniversary which fell on July 1.
Twenty-one prisoners on death row who had served at least 10 years had their
sentences commuted to life, while 71 prisoners serving life sentences and who
had served at least 10 years had their sentences commuted to a definite term of
20 years. The President exercised his prerogative of mercy under Article 72 of
the Constitution and acted upon the advice of the Council of State and the
recommendation of the Ghana Prison Service. The statement said 1,001 first
offenders, who had served at least half of their sentences, were recommended
for outright release. The amnesty included nine seriously ill prisoners who were
released on medical grounds. Another prisoner serving at the President’s
pleasure was recommended by the Medical Board for outright release, and one
prisoner was released upon special recommendation. “It is important to note
that those recommended for outright release have already been freed by the
prison authorities,” the statement added.
On 1 July 2015, President John Dramani Mahama granted amnesty to another 900 prisoners to commemorate the 55th Republic Anniversary. Fourteen death row inmates had their sentence reduced to life imprisonment.
President Mahama’s clemency measure was part of a long series of amnesties
granted by his predecessors, especially by President John Kufuor, devoted
Catholic and known as “the good giant of Africa.” In June of 2003, President
Kufuor had granted amnesty to 179 prisoners who had served at least 10 years on
death row. On 6 March 2007, in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of National
Independence, President Kufuor commuted 36 death sentences to life
imprisonment. On 1 July 2007, President Kufuor pardoned hundreds of prisoners
for humanitarian reasons, including seven who had their death sentences
commuted to life imprisonment. On 7 January 2009, his last day in office as President
of Ghana, John Kufuor pardoned more than 500 prisoners. All convicts sentenced
to death had their terms commuted to life and anyone on death row who had
already served 10 years had their sentence reduced to 20 years.
On 23 October 2012, Ghana was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review of
the UN Human Rights Council. On 14 March 2013, Ghana rejected the
recommendations related to abolition of the death penalty. Hannah Nyarko,
Deputy Permanent Representative of Ghana to the United Nations Office at
Geneva, said the death penalty was an entrenched provision in the Constitution
and could only be changed by the people of Ghana, and the Government could not
impose an official moratorium prior to a referendum. Unless and until an issue
was sufficiently advanced in the moral consciousness of the citizenry and an
unequivocal demand was made, any action counter to this would be
On December, 19 2016, Ghana was abstained in 2014, 2010, 2008 and 2007 during the vote on the
Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General
Assembly. In December 2012, Ghana was absent.