DEATH PENALTY 2011: ALARMING LEVELS OF EXECUTIONS IN THE FEW COUNTRIES THAT KILL
March 27, 2012: Countries that carried out executions in 2011 did so at an alarming rate but those employing capital punishment have decreased by more than a third compared to a decade ago, Amnesty International found in its annual review of death sentences and executions.
Only 10 percent of countries in the world, 20 out of 198, carried out executions last year.
People were executed or sentenced to death for a range of offences including adultery and sodomy in Iran, blasphemy in Pakistan, sorcery in Saudi Arabia, the trafficking of human bones in the Republic of Congo, and drug offences in more than 10 countries.Â
Methods of execution in 2011 included beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.
Some 18,750 people remained under sentence of death at the end of 2011 and at least 676 people were executed worldwide.
But these figures do not include the thousands of executions that Amnesty International believes were carried out in China, where the numbers are suppressed.
Nor do they account for the probable extent of Iranâs use of the death penalty â Amnesty International has had credible reports of substantial numbers of executions not officially acknowledged.
"The vast majority of countries have moved away from using the death penalty," said Salil Shetty Secretary General of Amnesty International.
"Our message to the leaders of the isolated minority of countries that continue to execute is clear: you are out of step with the rest of the world on this issue and it is time you took steps to end this most cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment."
In the Middle East there has been a steep rise in recorded executions â up almost 50 per cent on the previous year.
This was due to four countries â Iraq (at least 68 executions), Iran (at least 360), Saudi Arabia (at least 82) and Yemen (at least 41) â which accounted for 99 per cent of all recorded executions in the Middle East and North Africa. The rise in Iran and Saudi Arabia alone accounted for the net increase in recorded executions across the world of 149, compared to 2010.
Thousands of people were executed in China in 2011, more than the rest of the world put together. Figures on the death penalty are a state secret. Amnesty International has stopped publishing figures it collects from public sources in China as these are likely to grossly underestimate the true number.
Â The organization renewed its challenge to the Chinese authorities to publish data on those executed and sentenced to death, in order to confirm their claims that various changes in law and practice have led to a significant reduction in the use of the death penalty in the country over the last four years.
In Iran, Amnesty International received credible reports of a large number of unconfirmed or even secret executions which would almost double the levels officially acknowledged.
At least three people were executed in Iran for crimes that were committed when they were under 18 years of age, in violation of international law. A further four unconfirmed executions of juvenile offenders were reported there, and one in Saudi Arabia.
The United States was again the only country in the Americas and the only member of the G8 group of leading economies to execute prisoners â 43 in 2011. Europe and former Soviet Union countries were capital punishment-free, apart from Belarus where two people were executed. The Pacific was death penalty-free except for five death sentences in Papua New Guinea.
In Belarus and Vietnam, prisoners were not informed of their forthcoming execution, nor were their families or lawyers. Public judicial executions were known to have been carried out in North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Somalia, as well as in Iran.
In the majority of countries where people were sentenced to death or executed, the trials did not meet international fair trial standards. In some, this involved the extraction of 'confessions' through torture or other duress including in China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia.
Foreign nationals were disproportionately affected by the use of the death penalty, particularly in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.
But even in those countries that continue to execute on a high level some progress was made in 2011.
In China, the government eliminated the death penalty for 13 mainly 'white collar' crimes, and measures were also put forward to the National Peopleâs Congress to reduce the number of cases of torture in detention, strengthen the role of defence lawyers and ensure suspects in capital cases are represented by a lawyer.
In the USA, the number of executions and new death sentences dropped dramatically from a decade ago. Illinois became the 16th state to abolish the death penalty. A moratorium was announced in the state of Oregon. And victims of violent crimes spoke out against the death penalty
"Even among the small group of countries that executed in 2011, we can see gradual progress. These are small steps but such incremental measures have been shown ultimately to lead to the end of the death penalty," said Salil Shetty. (Sources: AI, 27/03/2012)