April 24, 2017

China heads world execution list as USA falls out of top five

11 April 2017, 09:11 | Clarence Schmidt

Breakdown of death sentences issued excluding China. Source Amnesty International

Breakdown of death sentences issued excluding China. Source Amnesty International

The database contains only "a tip of an iceberg" in relation to the thousands of death sentences that Amnesty International estimates are handed out every year in China, Bequelin said.

Amnesty International found there were 1,032 executions in 23 countries in 2016 compared to 1,634 in 25 nations in 2015.

China was one of four countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, that were responsible for 87 per cent of all executions past year, the activist group said.

The Chinese government may still be executing several thousand people, even though officials have claimed the death penalty only applies to an "extremely small" number of cases.

Iran recorded the second-largest number of executions with 597, although it dropped by 42 per cent (977) from the previous year.

Amnesty International has called on China to be transparent about the number of people it puts to death, saying less than a tenth of capital punishment cases were registered in the national court database.

The United States carried out 20 death sentences past year, the lowest number since 1991, and the number of people sentenced to die dropped to the lowest since 1973.

The authors also note that drug-related offences do not belong to the category of "most serious offences" to which the death penalty should be restricted under worldwide law. The danger of people being executed for crimes they did not commit remains ever-present: half of the exonerations recorded around the world in 2016 were in Nigeria (32).

"When, shockingly, Bahrain executed three men after deeply unfair trials recently, the Foreign Secretary could muster only the mildest of rebukes".

The US was removed from the top five for the first time since 2006, according to Amnesty. However, 2,832 people are still on death row in the USA.

Methods of execution used around the world included beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.

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The number of death sentences in the U.S. also decreased from 52 in 2015 to 32 in 2016 (38% decrease).

Saudi Arabia executed at least 154 people - maintaining the high level set in 2015 (158) which was the highest number recorded for Saudi Arabia since 1995.

"There are literally hundreds of cases in the Chinese media that are not in their database", Mr Nee said. Meanwhile, 12 states, including Arkansas, yet to abolish the death penalty have not executed anyone for at least 10 years.

Amnesty said it was "a clear sign that judges, prosecutors and juries are turning their back on the death penalty as a means of administering justice". Executions could return with a vengeance in 2017.

In 2015, Amnesty found media reports of 335 cases of capital punishment in China, 18 of which were in the database.

Uighurs accounted for about 4% of death sentences, despite accounting for only 0.7% of China's total population, according to a partial analysis of capital punishment data. The debate is clearly shifting. Belarus and Kazakhstan are the only two countries in the region to use the death penalty.

This number has decreased significantly from 20 years ago (40 countries carried out executions in 1997). Not only are they against a national trend, but also a regional one.

While the government has agreed to review drug laws in the country, it should also explore its options in entirely abolishing the death penalty, Shamini said.

The vast majority of those executions - 856 - were carried out in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). "For eight years now the United States of America has had the shameful distinction of being the only country in the Americas that carries out executions".

The fall was largely driven by fewer deaths recorded in Iran and Pakistan.

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