Lawyer Sosu seeks amendment to Armed Forces Act, 1962 (Act 105) via Private Members’ bill

Lawyer Francis-Xavier Kojo Sosu, NDC Member of Parliament for Madina Constituency in the Greater Accra Region, is pursuing an amendment to the Armed Forces Act, 1962 (Act 105) through a Private Members’ bill to substitute the penalty of life imprisonment for the death penalty and to provide for related matters.

The ARMED FORCES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2022, currently before the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for consideration and report, seeks to amend the Armed Forces Act, 1962 (Act 105).

Article 210 of the 1992 Constitution establishes the Armed Forces of Ghana, which consist of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and such other services for which provision is made by Parliament. The Ghana Armed Forces occupy a sensitive position in the security setup of the country. The mandate of the Ghana Armed Forces is to defend the country against foreign aggression in times of war.

The death penalty is provided for in the Armed Forces Act, 1962 (Act 105) to deter members of the Armed Forces from engaging in acts that would put the security of the state in jeopardy.

That notwithstanding, the history of the Ghana Armed Forces shows that there is no correlation between the imposition of the death penalty on members of the Armed Forces and the increase or decrease in acts that put the security of the state in jeopardy.

In a memorandum accompanying the bill, dated June 28, 2022, Francis-Xavier Kojo Sosu submitted that “the death penalty is viewed as an affront to the fundamental right to life, which ought to be protected and preserved. The inviolability of the fundamental human rights to life is affirmed by several international conventions such as Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Globally, steps are being taken towards the abolition of the death penalty to protect the right to life. A major milestone in the quest to abolish the death penalty was achieved when the plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly, which is the policy-making organ of the United Nations, saw a record number of 123 states supporting the adoption of its biennial resolution, which called for the establishment of a moratorium on executions. Another important milestone that marked efforts to globally abolish the death penalty was the adoption by several countries of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

The global advocacy for the repeal of the death penalty from our Statute Books has gained traction in Ghana. In 2010, a Presidential Commission of Inquiry set up to review the 1992 Constitution recommended the repeal of the death penalty from the Statute Books. The government, in its White Paper, accepted the recommendation of the Commission. Yet, no step was taken to actualize the recommendation. There have been several calls on Parliament to implement the recommendation of the Commission by repealing the death penalty from the Statute Book.

“The passage of the Armed Forces (Amendment) Bill, 2022 would be a major step towards the repeal of the death penalty from the Statute Book,” he stressed.

It is worth noting that article 40 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, requires State parties to submit reports on measures that they have adopted to give effect to the rights recognized by the Covenant and progress made in the enjoyment of the rights; this includes the right to life. The passage of the Bill will propel Ghana towards the fulfilment of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

A report by Ghana of the introduction and subsequently, if passed, of the passage of the Bill will serve as a key indicator of Ghana’s respect for human rights. Ghana will not only join the league of countries that have initiated steps to repeal the death penalty from their Statute Books but would have its reputation improved on the international scene.

Clause 1 seeks to amend paragraphs (a) and (b) of section 14(2) of Act 105 by substitution of the death penalty with the penalty of life imprisonment for specific offences which are committed in action. The amendment is in relation to offences which are treasonable or committed in cowardice. Clause 2 seeks to amend paragraphs (a) and (0) of section 15(2) of Act 105 by substituting the penalty of death with the penalty of life imprisonment for offences committed in the presence of the enemy which are treasonable. Clause 2 further provides that a person convicted of an offence committed in the presence of an enemy is liable to suffer life imprisonment or a lesser punishment provided by Act 105.

Clause-by-clause amendment:

Clause 3 seeks to amend paragraph (a) of section 16(2) of Act 105 by substituting the death penalty with the punishment of life imprisonment for security-related offences which are treasonable. Clause 4 further seeks to amend paragraph (a) of section 17(2) of Act 105 by substituting the death penalty with the punishment of life imprisonment for offences which are treasonable.

Clause 5 also seeks to amend section 19 of Act 105 by substituting the death penalty with the punishment of life imprisonment for persons who join a mutiny with violence. Clause 5 also provides that such persons may be liable to suffer a lesser punishment. Clause 6 amends sections 20 (1) and (2) of Act 105. It provides that a person convicted of an offence of joining a mutiny without violence is liable to life imprisonment or to a lesser punishment if that person is a member or ring leader of the mutiny.

Clause 7 further amends the closing paragraph of section 40 by the substitution for “death” of life imprisonment. Clause 8 also amends section 78(3) of Act 105 by the substitution for “death” of “life imprisonment”. Clause 9 also amends section 79(1) of Act 105 by the substitution for the “death penalty” of life imprisonment.

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