ACCRA, Amnesty International has called on the government of Ghana to scrap the death penalty, while noting that close to 150 death row inmates are languishing in grim conditions in prisons in the country with only a fraction able to appeal their convictions.

In a new report released here Wednesday, it said that interviews with 107 death row prisoners provided further evidence of why the country should abolish this cruel punishment, in line with the recommendation of the 2011 Constitution Review Commission document.

Alioune Tine, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, said: “The 2011 constitutional review should have signaled the end of the road for the death penalty in Ghana, but six years on, courts continue to hand down this cruel punishment, while death row prisoners remain trapped in cramped conditions, separated from other prisoners, and with no access to educational or recreational activities.

The Ghanaian authorities should commute the death sentences of all death row prisoners to terms of imprisonment and ensure that all these cases are reviewed to identify any potential miscarriages of justice.

Many death row inmates told Amnesty International that they did not receive adequate legal representation for their trials and the vast majority have been unable to appeal. Although around three quarters of prisoners were provided with a government-appointed lawyer in court, some prisoners said that their lawyer asked for payment. Several said that their lawyers had not attended all the court hearings while many others said they did not have a chance to talk to their lawyer to prepare their defence.

The UN Human Rights Committee and UN Special Rapporteur on Torture had previously raised concerns over the quality of state-supplied legal aid in Ghana.

Fewer than one in four death row inmates interviewed had been able to appeal their conviction or sentence, and the Ghana Prison Service informed Amnesty International that only 12 death row inmates had filed appeals since 2006, half of which were successful. Few inmates interviewed were aware of how to appeal or access legal aid, while most were unable to pay for private lawyers.