Kenya urged to set pace for region by abolishing the death penalty

By JOSEPH MURAYA, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 17 – Kenya has been asked to consider abolishing the death penalty since it is not compatible with the fundamental tenets of human rights, in particular human dignity, the right to life and prohibition of torture or other cruel treatment.

United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya Siddharth Chatterjee said if the death penalty is abolished here, the rest of Africa is likely to follow suit.

“To us, Kenya is a beacon of hope in a state of fragility we have seen in the neighbourhood. We need a Kenya which is actually the paradigm of human rights, the paradigm of mercy, inclusion and above all the paradigm of equality where women and child rights are respected. This is where it is actually happening. The change is happening in Kenya,” he stated.

“Whatever happens here it is going to have a ripple effect to the neighbouring States too.”

He applauded President Uhuru Kenyatta over his recent move to commute all death sentences in the country to life in jail, terming it as a good move.

Some 2,747 death row convicts are now serving life imprisonment following President Kenyatta’s directive.

This includes 2,655 male convicts and 92 female convicts who will be removed from death row to serve life sentences.

The last commutation of death sentences to life imprisonment was done in 2009 by then President Mwai Kibaki.

“Considerable progress has been made towards the universal abolition of the death penalty in recent years. Currently, around 170 member States of the United Nations have either abolished the death penalty or no longer practice it,” Chatterjee said. “Most recently, seven States abolished death penalty for all crimes.”

He quoted recent remarks by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon who had said “I remain convinced that there is no place for the death penalty in the twenty-first century.”

“We welcome the fact that despite the fact that Kenya has the death penalty in its law books, it has not carried out any execution around three decades,” he said.

The last execution in Kenya was carried out in 1987.

“We hope that the Government of Kenya will respond to the call of the Secretary General and take further steps to move from the current de facto moratorium towards the full abolition,” he appealed.

He said Kenya should ride on the recent mass commutation and work towards establishing an official moratorium on the death penalty, aiming at its full abolition for all crimes.

Chatterjee further cited a recent report at the UN General Assembly that proves that there is no evidence that “the death penalty deters crime more than other forms of punishment.”

“It is not the severity of punishment that deters wrongdoers but its certainty.”

To curb crime, the UN has recommended that the focus should be channelled towards the justice system by ensuring it complies with the international human rights law.

Kenya National Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Kagwiria Mbogori on her part says the death penalty must be abolished since the Kenyan justice system is still ridden with corruption and ineffectiveness that leaves innocent suspects vulnerable.

They were speaking during the commencement of a two-day experts’ workshop on assessing public attitude on the death penalty in Kenya on Thursday.

“The death penalty has a severe physical and psychological impact on inmates and their families possibly amounting to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under international law,” she said.

According to Mbogori, it was even more expensive to maintain inmates on death row, “since most governments are reluctant to execute death row inmates.”

Justice for All Programmes needs a complete overhaul –Chief Justice


Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood has said the Justice For All programme needs a complete overhaul to ensure its effectiveness.

At the first stakeholders’ workshop since the inception of the program, she revealed, though it has saved lots of persons from unduly lavishing in jail and saved the government purse, is fraught with difficulties that impede its success.

Read her statement below


My Lord Chair;

Justices of the Court of Appeal and the High Court;

Honourable Attorney General and Minister for Justice,

Representatives from the Police Service, the Prisons Service and other stakeholders here present,

Members of the Ghana Bar Association,

Representatives of Civil Society,

Development Partners,

The Media,

Distinguished Invited Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is an honour for me to deliver this address this workshop on the Justice for All Programme, a programme which was initiated by the then Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, in collaboration with the Judicial Service, the Police and Prison Services.

I was privileged to be present at its maiden sitting, which was held at the James Fort Prison, on 27th September 2007. It was hugely successful and as I speak, I do recollect the joy on the faces of those beneficiaries at the time.

As we all know, the Justice for all programme is a special in-prison court sitting on remand prisoners, prisoners whose trials are unreasonably delayed. On all accounts, the programme constitutes a key component of the rule of law, access to justice and the sustained promotion and protection of the human rights of prisoners –both remand prisoners and convicted prisoners and of course their handlers, that is officials of the Prisons Service, and by extension the families of these persons that I have identified.

This workshop, on the theme: “Justice for All: Strengths, Weaknesses and the Way Forward”, which stands to provide opportunity for introspection; with a view to strengthening our criminal justice system is definitely timely. I commend the two Justices at the helm of affairs of this programme, namely, Mr. Justice CJ Honyenugah, a Justice of the Court of Appeal and his Deputy, Mr. Justice Hometowu of the High Court, Nsawam Prison for their untiring effort in ensuring its continuing success. Their commitment and dedication to duty, have brought not only hope and relief but JUSTICE to many. So we thank them. All stakeholders’ determination to work even harder to strengthen the criminal justice system through this medium also merits special mention.

A well-known constitutional legal principle, relevant to this workshop is that an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The pertinent provision, Article 14(4) of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana provides as follows:

“Where a person arrested, restricted or detained under paragraph (a) or (b) of clause (3) of this article is not tried within a reasonable time, then, without prejudice to any further proceedings that may be brought against him, he shall be released either unconditionally or upon reasonable conditions, including in particular, conditions reasonably necessary to ensure that he appears at a later date for trial or for proceedings preliminary to trial”

Understandably, the existing constitutional and other legal texts do not provide a contextual definition of the legal term “reasonable time”. Some have argued that the absence of a statutory definition for the expression “reasonable time”, has contributed to the general inordinate delays in the trial of remand prisoners. It is a contention I find implausible, given that the decisional law is so sufficiently clear and strong that any judge or magistrate who is desirous of ensuring justice is met in any given case, would not hide behind this argument to perpetrate injustice.

Admittedly, over the years the Justice for All programmes has sought to remedy some of these acts of gross miscarriage of justice, but something more fundamental, something more far-reaching, needs to be done. The system is crying for a radical overhaul in terms of the procedural law in particular, and the sanctions to be applied following conviction. O

ne such important statutory intervention would definitely help bring sanity into the criminal justice system and therefore ease the congestion in the prisons. I refer to the issue of non-adoption of proceedings in partly-heard criminal cases. I propose the adoption of proceedings in partly heard criminal cases as is the case in civil cases, if not on a wholesale basis for all offences, certainly in relation to a large number of criminal cases which are heard in the lower courts. I have no doubt that trials de novo are clearly disadvantageous to stakeholder participation in the criminal justice delivery system.

My Lord Chairman, the Justice For All programme, which has evolved over the years has been through a number of structural changes. The process has been structured to address nagging the problem of accused persons who are held in pre-trial detention for long periods, often on expired warrants.

The process through which cases are selected for these special court sittings is quite robust. This process is well-structured and transparent and hence cannot be manipulated or compromised to a large extent. I would propose that we come out with a manual or handbook on which the programme would operate.

The official remand list from specific prisons, which is obtained from the Prison Headquarters, is vetted by the Remand Review Task Force, made up of the four key institutions (AG, Judiciary, Police, and Prisons) in accordance with laid down selection criteria for each category of offence.

The approved list from the Remand Review Task Force is then submitted to the Defence team for remand prisoners (made up of lawyers and paralegals), to enable them to interview the selected remand prisoners and draft applications/motions for them.

The motions are appropriately filed at the Registry of the Regional High Court, for service on the concerned staff of the AG and the Judges, prior to the court sitting. Copies of these motions or applications are also kept for record purposes and for future reference.

My Lord Chairman, there is one matter of grave concern I would like to address briefly. Media reports suggest that some members of the public see the Justice for All Programme as a vehicle for releasing suspected criminals on to the streets.

I find this situation rather disturbing and unfortunate because the Justice for All Courts is courts of competent jurisdiction that follows due process. The determinations made by these courts must be respected by all, including investigators who fail to enforce them by their failure to enforce decisions on bail, in particular, granted by these courts.

We must bear in mind that the Justice for All Programme is beneficial to the vulnerable and poor, who find themselves in detention, for one reason or the other, and who are unable to afford the legal fees and so for some them they self-represent or remain unrepresented.

Nonetheless, their rights at law must be protected. We have a collective duty to ensure their rights are fully respected. They are deemed innocent until proven guilty.

Have we thought of those who end up being proven NOT GUILTY after trial? How do we compensate them for their, financial, psychological, emotional and sometimes physical harm arising from wrongful pre-trial incarceration?

I will, therefore, entreat the media to be circumspect in their reportage by ensuring that stories are verified before publication in order not to undermine the rule of law.

To the contrary, I would entreat the media to educate the public fully on what this programme seeks to achieve so as to enhance public trust and confidence in the justice system. This is the way to build strong and lasting institutions.

The Justice for All Programme is a unique model in Africa, where legal aid Pro Bono services are virtually non-existent. Through it, we take justice to the marginalised and unrepresented remand prisoner.

My Lord Chair, available statistics indicates that since the inception of the programme in 2007, out of a total of three thousand, two hundred and ninety-three (3,293) inmates who have appeared before the Justice for All courts, six hundred and two (672) were discharged, nine hundred and eighty-five (985) were granted bail and one hundred and thirty-five (135) were convicted.

Other applicants who have had their applications rejected had their expired warrants renewed to enable them to appear before the various trial courts for the commencement of their trials.

Others have also referred to psychiatric hospital for medical examination and treatment. As a result, “locked and forgotten” remand prisoners are no longer in existence. This will continue to be the situation for as long as the Justice for All programme lives. Let me also add that the Programme has saved millions of public funds in terms of the feeding grant of GHC180.00 the government spends on a prisoner daily.

This achievement is undoubtedly the result of the cooperation of all the stakeholders within the criminal justice system but more importantly, as a result of funding received from international bodies such as DANIDA, UNDP, USAID, Star Ghana, DFID/ the British High Commission and the European Union, just to mention a few.

I also wish to commend NGOs such as Churchill, POS Foundation, HelpLaw, the GIMPA Law Faculty and some public spirited individual Lawyers for their indefatigable contribution towards the sustenance of the programme. In the absence of these NGOs, most remand prisoners would have continued to languish in the various prison facilities nationwide.

My Lord Chair, permit me to mention that the detention conditions prevailing in the country’s prisons are deplorable and an affront to human dignity. Health conditions, characterised by a plethora of communicable diseases, inadequate ventilation, poor sanitation, poor food and many others, as portrayed by the two documentaries (“Locked and Forgotten” and “Left to Rot”) produced by Seth Kwame Boateng of JoyFM in March 2015 and June 2016 is the clearest testimony to these.

The Judiciary is committed to ensuring that the programme serves the justice needs of our people positively. From our records, especially, judging from the monthly returns on remand prisoners, I can say, with conviction and certainty that the remand population has reduced, thanks to the programme. The time has now come for us to do more as we await that glorious day when other interventions, would bring the situation under strict control.


I wish to congratulate all of you here present for your contributions to the success of the Justice for All Programme on the achievement chalked so far and highly commend your efforts. I encourage you to use this workshop as a forum to identify the strengths, weaknesses, and the way forward, bearing in mind plans for its continuity, sustainability, and maximum impact.

I wish you a successful deliberation.

Thank you.

‘You will breach law if you attack back’

The police administration has entreated the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) to abandon its decision to retaliate alleged attacks by New Patriotic Party (NPP) supporters on its members.

Police PRO, Superintendent Cephas Arthur in an interview with Francis Abban, host of The Pulse programme on the JOYNEWS channel on MultiTV Thursday said NDC members who attack persons who harm them would be infringing on the law.

Post-election reports in the media are replete with stories of attacks by some New Patriotic Party (NPP) supporters on NDC members.

NDC leadership has served warnings to the NPP to call its members to order.

At a news conference in Accra, NDC National Chairman, Kofi Portuphy said the attacks are becoming too many in the country.

He listed attacks on the Brazilian contractors and workers who are working on the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange and the killing of an NDC supporters in Dunkwa-on-Offin in the Central Region to stress his point.

The alleged attack on a popular actor, Wofa K. courted his attention although the story has been described as fictitious.

A visit by JOYNEWS revealed the actor had staged it.

Mr Portuphy said after January 7 when President-Elect, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo would be inaugurated, the NDC would not treat as lightly attacks on its members.

NDC National Organiser, Kofi Adams defended the decision of the party’s chairman.

Speaking to Evans Mensah, host of Joy FM’s Top Story programme Thursday, he said although the police are doing their best, it is not enough.

“If someone is holding a stick and heading to your direction will you allow him to strike you with it?” he asked, adding the best action would be to react.

But the police say it is in charge of the situation. Superintendent Arthur said the police have arrested eight persons since the alleged violence started.

“We are on cases like what happened in the Brong Ahafo where some people burnt down toll Booth. Some of them have been granted bail after they were arrested,” he said.

Christian Council General Secretary, Reverend Opuni Frimpong charged political actors to restrain their supporters in the country.

“We’ve reached a point where politicians and political parties must know that democracy thrives on law abiding citizens.”

He said the Council would raise the alleged rampant attacks ongoing in the country in the media urging the police to arrest persons found committing the act.

“It is a criminal issue,” he said, adding the Council expects the NPP to condemn alleged vandalism carried out by its supporters at Dunkwa-on-Offin.

‘Treat alleged violent attacks as crimes’ – Christian Council charges police

The Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) has charged the police to treat cases of violent attacks allegedly carried out by New Patriotic Party (NPP) supporters as criminal cases.

Council General Secretary, Reverend Opuni Frimpong has wondered why some individuals would want to foment dissension after the country has been lauded for holding a successful general election.

He wants the leadership of the various political parties especially the NPP and governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) to disown supporters who are found disturbing the peace of the country.

The NDC has expressed its dissatisfaction in what it has described as selected attacks on its members following its defeat to the NPP in last week Wednesday’s presidential election.

CCG General Secretary, Reverend Opuni Frimpong

There have been nine alleged attacks reported across the country. There have been three in Twifo Praso, one in Teshie, two in Kukuom, two in Fiapre in the Brong Ahafo Region and one in Dunkwa Onofin in the Central Region.

National NDC Chairman, Kofi Portuphy at a news conference in Accra Thursday said the party would no longer countenance on such attacks.

He promised of retaliation if the attacks should continue after January 7 when President-elect, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo would be sworn-in as leader of the country.
The police have warned the NDC to abandon its decision since they are already addressing the issue across the country.

Police PRO, Superintendent Cephas Arthur in an interview with Francis Abban, host of The Pulse programme on JOYNEWS channel on MultiTV said the police have arrested eight persons in connection with the attacks.

He said the NDC would breach the law if it takes matters into its own hands. Leave the issues to the police to address them, he told the NDC.

Rev. Frimpong said the nation has reached a level where political actors have to respect the laws of the land.

“Democracy thrives on law-abiding citizens,” he said, adding political parties have to restrain their supporters in the country.

“Such violent attacks are criminal issues,” he said, adding the Council expects the NPP to condemn alleged vandalism carried out by its supporters at Dunkwa-on-Offin.

Fairness at workplace improves police professionalism – Dr. Tankebe

The making of ‘democracy’s champions’: Understanding police support for democracy in Ghana

  1. Justice Tankebe

  1. University of Cambridge, UK
  1. Justice Tankebe, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DA, UK. Email:


Marks and Fleming (2006: 178–179) have conjectured that ‘if we are to expect the police to behave democratically, it is important for the police themselves to experience democratic engagement within the organisations in which they work’. This article tests their conjecture, using data from a survey of frontline officers in Ghana. In particular, it explores whether police support for, and satisfaction with, democracy and police commitment to procedural justice in police–public encounters are driven by experiences of organizational distributive justice and procedural justice. The findings show strong support for democracy and for procedural justice in police–public encounters, but they also indicate dissatisfaction with ‘the way democracy works’. Further analyses suggest that assessments of distributive justice and procedural justice within the Ghanaian police service are the main drivers of support for democracy, satisfaction with democracy and commitment to procedural justice in police–public encounters. The findings thus lend support to the Marks–Fleming conjecture. It was also found that satisfaction with personal financial circumstance undermines commitment to procedural justice in police–public encounters.

Dr. Tankebe speaks at the WHO 7th Milestones on Violence Prevention Meeting

7th Milestones of a Global Campaign for Violence Prevention Meeting

22 SEPTEMBER 2015. GENEVA. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, due to be formally adopted by governments around the world on 25-27 September 2015, includes the prevention of violence, and has several targets that address the underlying causes of violence. This week at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, some 200 of the world’s leading violence prevention experts gathered to discuss how best to harness the powerful opportunities for strengthening interpersonal violence prevention that are contained in the Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As detailed in WHO’s Global status report on violence prevention 2014, each year an estimated 475 000 people are murdered, millions more receive hospital emergency care due to injuries resulting from physical and sexual assault, and countless others suffer child maltreatment, intimate partner violence, sexual abuse, and elder abuse in silence. Beyond death, injury and disability, the consequences of non-fatal violence on physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health often last a lifetime. Violence also contributes to leading causes of death such as cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDS, because victims are at an increased risk of adopting behaviours such as smoking, alcohol and drug misuse, and unsafe sex. Through such consequences, interpersonal violence erodes the human and social capital of countries, and can undermine development.

Interpersonal violence is predictable and preventable. Evidence shows that a major proportion of violence-related death and suffering is avoidable through investment in prevention approaches such as: parenting support; enhanced early childhood development programmes; life and social skills training for children and adolescents; reducing alcohol availability and access to firearms; problem-oriented policing; urban upgrading and poverty de-concentration. The responsibility for addressing interpersonal violence through these measures rests clearly with national governments.

“Given what we know about the substantial negative effects of interpersonal violence on individuals and societies, and its preventability, the forthcoming adoption of SDG targets for its prevention is a momentous opportunity for governments and people everywhere to scale up their commitment to and investments in prevention” said Dr Etienne Krug, Director of WHO’s Department for the Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention.

Four SDG targets concern violence prevention directly. Targets 5.2 and 5.3 focus on ending violence against women and girls, Target 16.1 calls for significantly reducing all forms of violence everywhere, and Target 16.2 for ending all forms of violence against children. Several other SDG targets focus on important underlying causes that cut across all forms of interpersonal violence, including targets for poverty reduction, increased social protection, reduced access to alcohol and drugs, enhanced early childhood development, improved urban planning, and strengthened rule of law and justice systems.

Commenting on these SDG targets, Dr Alexander Butchart, WHO Coordinator for the Prevention of Violence, noted that “WHO and its violence prevention partners have long called for an approach that integrates violence prevention goals into all relevant policies. At this 7th Milestones in a Global Campaign for Violence Prevention Meeting, we mapped out the links between the direct violence prevention SDG targets and those that address the underlying causes. We will then use this map to develop a policy template that governments can draw upon in designing national violence prevention plans and policies”.

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Most Ghanaians Oppose the Death Penalty

A widespread assumption among some advocacy groups is that the majority of Ghanaians are in favour of the death penalty. The first ever public opinion survey on the death penalty casts doubts on this assumption. The survey, which was conducted by the Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCCJ, Ghana), involved household interviews with 2,460 residents of Accra. The study found that 48.3% of those interviewed were opposed to the death penalty in general; only 8.6% indicated they were strongly in favour of it. Further, the study found no evidence to support concerns about backlash effects of abolition for murder. Download Final Report HERE

KNCHR, UN hold anti-death penalty workshop

Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) chairperson Kagwiria Mbogori and UN Crime Research Centre coordinator Sidhart Chaterjjee during the launch of atwo-days workshop to abolish Death Penalty, Thursday.

The Power Of Mercy Advisory Committee (POMAC) in-collaboration with the United Nations Crime Research Centre (UN-CRC), the Attorney General’s office, and the Department of Justice, on Thursday morning launched a workshop to have Kenya’s Death Penalty abolished.

Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) chairperson Kagwiria Mbogori said the two-days workshop being held at Nairobi’s InterContinental Hotel, seeks to engage members of the public on whether death penalty is the suitable form of justice in the country.

She said the workshop also aims to establish whether Death Penalty results to inhumane, cruel or degrading treatment given that it is irrevocable and could result into punishing innocent people.

Speaking at the event, UN Crime Research Centre coordinator Sidhart Chaterjjee said about 170 UN members states have abolished the death penalty or no longer practice it.

He hailed Kenya for commuting death penalties to inmates and urged global leaders to push for the abolition of Death Penalty, and possibly replace it with life sentences.

The workshop has brought together various rights groups from around the globe.

This comes after President Uhuru Kenyatta commuted the sentences of all the country’s death row inmates to life imprisonment in October 2016, by sparing lives of 2,655 male and another 92 female inmates.