AMNESTY: 2,390 EXECUTED LAST YEAR
|China executes more people than any other nation
March 24, 2009: Countries in Asia carried out more executions in 2008 than the rest of the world put together, campaign group Amnesty International said in its annual report. The Middle East region reported the second highest number of executions, the group said.
Of the at least 2,390 people put to death worldwide in 2008, 93 percent of these were executed in five countries - China, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States - Amnesty said.
At least 8,864 were sentenced to death in 52 countries last year, according to Amnesty.
"In many regions, including Africa, death sentences continue to be passed in the hundreds."
China carried out at least 1,718 executions in 2008 but the actual figure may be much higher as it is one of the countries where secrecy surrounds the use of the death penalty, the group noted.
Iran performed at least 346 executions, Saudi Arabia at least 102, the US 37, Pakistan at least 36, Iraq at least 34 , Yemen and Afghanistan at least 17 and Yemen at least 13.
The death penalty was carried out in 25 countries worldwide and methods of execution included beheading, hanging, shooting, lethal injection (China and US) stoning (Iran) and electrocution (US).
Iran executed 8 prisoners who were under 18 at the time of the offence - acts described by Amnesty as "a flagrant breach of international law."
Just one European country - Belarus - is still applying the death penalty. "Europe would be a 'death penalty free zone' if it were not for Belarus," said Amnesty's secretary-general Irene Khan.
"Despite positive developments, a number of tough challenges remain," Amnesty said.
As in previous years, a large number of death sentences were handed down in trials that failed to meet internationally recognised standards for fairness, the group said.
A number of executions were carried out after proceedings that relied upon confessions extracted through torture in violation of international law, Amnesty said.
But the group stressed that some progress is being made. "The majority of the world is moving a step closer to the abolition of the death penalty," it said.
Only 25 of the 59 countries that retain the death penalty are actually carrying out executions, according to Amnesty.
"The good news is that the vast majority of executions are carried out by only five countries, which shows that the world is moving away from this horrible punishment," said Khan.
The United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty was adopted last December by a large number of states. (Sources: AKI, 24/03/2009)