Transitional justice and constitutionalism: The case of Ghana

Author: Marian Yankson-Mensah

ISSN: 1996-2118
Affiliations: LLB (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology), LLM (University of
the Western Cape), Dr Iur (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin); Project Officer, International Nuremberg Principles Academy, Nuremberg, Germany.
Source: South African Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 33 Issue 3, p. 543 – 562


The delicate process of constitution-making during transition covers a range of issues, but usually features questions on how to address past human rights violations, change repressive laws, recognise basic rights and reform state institutions. Hence, the constitution-making process can have significant implications on the transitional justice mechanisms that are adopted and how they are implemented. In the case of Ghana, the 1992 Constitution came into force after decades of political instability. On 28 April 1992, a draft constitution for Ghana’s fourth republic was approved in a referendum. As part of the transitional provisions in the 1992 Constitution, amnesty provisions were enshrined to protect members of all previous military regimes from prosecution. However, the 1992 Constitution did not contain express provisions for initiation of other transitional justice mechanisms. In a bid to reflect on the rarely examined relationship between transitional justice mechanisms and constitutionalism, this paper shall examine Ghana’s amnesty laws, truth commission and reparative measures in relation to the constitution-making process and constitutional norms. The paper opines that as separate processes towards a common end, proper synchronisation of Ghana’s transitional justice processes and constitution-making could have shaped the country’s transitional justice mechanisms in the right direction towards achieving their perceived goals.