A recent survey on “Public Support for the Death Penalty in Ghana” has shown that more people (48. 3 per cent) are opposed to the death penalty than those who support it (40.7 per cent).
“On this evidence, opposition to the death penalty in Ghana would seem stronger than what currently pertains in the United Kingdom (UK), where a recent YouGov Poll shows 39 per cent opposition,” it indicated.
Method of study
The study involved a face-to-face survey of 2,460 people randomly selected from four communities in Accra, namely, Chorkor, Nima, Teshie-Nungua Estate and the East Legon Residential Area.
The fieldwork was conducted in April and May 2014.
It was conducted by the Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice, with Dr Peter Atupare Atudiwe of the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon; Dr Kofi E. Boakye and Dr Justice Tankebe, both of the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK, as the researchers.
Rationale for study
The study was conducted against the backdrop that Ghana is among the countries that still retain the death penalty, with 138 convicts presently on death row for three main types of offences – murder, genocide and treason.
However, no executions have taken place since 1993.
In June 2012, the government published a White Paper in which it accepted the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) to abolish the death penalty and replace it with imprisonment for life without parole.
The study, therefore, sought to provide baseline data on public attitudes to the death penalty, the sources and nature of resistance to abolition and backlash effects.
The overall aim of the researchers was twofold: First, to provide research evidence that contributed to public discourse on the death penalty as Ghana prepared to vote on the relevant constitutional amendments.
Second, to provide baseline data that would allow the tracking of trends in public attitudes over the next several decades.
The survey indicated that males were more likely than females to favour the death penalty.
It, however, showed that there was no difference in attitudes between victims and non-victims of violent crime.
It indicated that the most preferred replacement for the death penalty was life imprisonment without parole.
“Approximately 71 per cent of the people interviewed chose life imprisonment without parole as the alternative to the death penalty in the case of those convicted of genocide, 66 per cent for murder and 65 per cent for treason convicts,” it stated.
The survey showed very little evidence of potential backlash in the form of support for vigilante violence or lynching, with only 26 per cent of the respondents indicating they would take the law into their own hands if the death penalty was abolished.
“Interestingly, they believed approximately 87 per cent of people will not resort to vigilante violence,” it added.
The survey recommended that advocates of the abolition of the death penalty should make greater efforts in that respect.
It also recommended that public engagement programmes on the abolition of the death penalty should move away from a human rights argument to a focus on the sacredness of life and uncertainties in establishing the guilt of suspects which might result in wrongful executions.
It further stressed the need for investments in systematic studies that tracked changes in public attitudes and the conditions associated with those changes in order to preempt a return to the death penalty after it had been abolished.
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