Ghana’s parliament has voted to abolish the death penalty, joining a long list of African countries that have done so in recent years.
The country currently has 170 men and six women on death row, whose sentences will now be replaced by life imprisonment. The last execution took place in 1993.
Execution has been the mandatory sentence for murder in Ghana. Opinion surveys suggest that most Ghanaians approve abolition.
Last year seven people were sentenced to death in Ghana – but none were executed. Treason has also been punishable by death in Ghana.
The bill to amend the Criminal Offences Act was put forward by MP Francis-Xavier Sosu and had the backing of the parliament’s Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
A London-based campaign organization, the Death Penalty Project (DPP), had worked with Mr Sosu to get the law changed.
A statement from DPP says Ghana is the 29th African country to abolish the death penalty, and the 124th globally.
In recent years many African states have abolished the death penalty, including Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone and Zambia.
Mr Sosu said that “on death row, prisoners woke up thinking this could be their last day on earth. They were like the living dead: psychologically, they had ceased to be humans. “Abolishing the death penalty shows that we are determined as a society not to be inhumane, uncivil, closed, retrogressive and dark.”
He added this would pave the way to a free and progressive society reflecting “our common belief that the sanctity of life is inviolable”.