Amnesty International said on Thursday that although Ghana is willing to abolish the death penalty, it is having a tough time taking a definite decision on the matter.
?The government of Ghana has stretched a hand of willingness to abolish the death penalty in Ghana to move the country onto a high level on our human right ladder, however, the nation appears to be at crossroads at the moment,? Mr Lawrence Amesu, Director of Amnesty International said.
Mr Amesu said this at a workshop meant to create a platform for stakeholders to discuss the abolition of the death penalty in Ghana and develop an action plan towards its eradication.
He urged human rights organisations, religious bodies and civil society organisations to chart appropriate path that would ensure the ultimate goal of getting rid of the death penalty.
According to the Mr Amesu many people believe that the death penalty should be retained in the penal code because of the increasing spate of armed robbery cases.
He said several people also consider the death penalty as an effective deterrent, adding that ?we are all aware that this not the case?.
Ghanaian courts continue to sentence people to death although there has not been any state execution since 1993.
In 2011, the Ghana government set up a Constitution Review Commission (CRC) with a mandate to consult the people of Ghana and offer recommendations for the review of the 1992 Constitution.
The CRC recommendation among others was the abolition of the death penalty which the government accepted, however, as one the entrenched clauses in the 1992 Constitution, the recommendation must go to a referendum for the people to make a decision.
Mr Amesu said experience across the world and current discussion in Ghana indicates that going to a referendum might not be the only way to abolish the death penalty.
?There appears to be different views on this thus placing Ghana at a cross-road as to which way to go,? Mr Amesu said.
Former Commissioner, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Justice Emile Short said many people are of the view that the death penalty should be abolished.
He said an equal number of submissions also strongly opposed any attempt to abolish the death penalty, contending that ?anyone who attempts to overthrow the constitutional order, the bases of all of our liberties and aspirations, must be sentenced to death?.
Others maintains that the death penalty needs to be preserved for committers of murder, armed robbery and rape.
He said other submissions posited that death penalty should be retained for variety of reasons ranging from its deterrent effect on hardened criminals and coup plotters and coup makers; the need to maintain order in the society.
There is also the need to maintain the internal security of the country against treasonable activity; to insure against the poor rehabilitation regime in the prisons and saving the cost of the upkeep of many people sentenced to life in prison.
There is also an argument that there is a worldwide move towards abolishing the death penalty and Ghana should follow suit, especially as neighbouring Togo and Benin have already shown the way.
Justice Short said while the courts continue to pass the death sentence for certain crimes these were usually not carried out.
He said: ?The last execution in Ghana took place in 1993, since then no President has signed any death warrant.
?Instead, they have commuted the punishments of many persons sentenced to death and others are death row in horrific conditions indefinably not knowing whether their sentence will be carried out.?
Human Rights Advocacy Centre Executive Director, Robert Amoafo told Ghana News Agency that the best alternative to death penalty is life imprisonment with productive labour.
He said the punishment meted out to offenders should be progressive and reformative but not to dehumanise people or deny them of their fundamental human rights.