New report shows global death penalty use is shrinking
Posted: 28 March 2011
“A world free of the death penalty is not only possible, it is inevitable. The question is how long will it take?” - Salil Shetty
Countries that use the death penalty are increasingly isolated following a decade of progress toward abolition, Amnesty International has said today (28 March), as it published its annual assessment of the global use of the death penalty.
In its Death Sentences and Executions in 2010 report, Amnesty officially recorded 527 executions in 23 countries - down from at least 714 executions in 2009. However, these minimum figures do not take full account of China, where thousands are believed to be executed every year and where the authorities remain highly secretive about its use.
In 2010, says Amnesty, capital punishment was carried out in the following countries: China (1,000s), Iran (252+), North Korea (60+), Yemen (53+), USA, (46), Saudi Arabia (27+), Libya (18+), Syria (17+), Bangladesh (9+), Somalia (8+), Sudan (6+), Palestinian Authority (5), Egypt (4), Equatorial Guinea (4), Taiwan (4), Belarus (2), Iraq (1+), Malaysia (1+), Bahrain (1), Singapore (unknown number) and Vietnam (unknown number).
Methods of execution were beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and various kinds of shooting (by firing squad, and at close range to the heart or the head). No stonings were recorded in 2010, but stoning sentences were reported in Nigeria, Pakistan and Iran (where at least 10 women and four men remain under stoning sentences). Meanwhile at least 2,024 new death sentences were imposed during 2010 in 67 countries, including 365 in Pakistan alone, meaning that some 8,000 people are currently on death row in Pakistan.
Amnesty’s report nevertheless points out that the underlying global trend on the death penalty is strongly toward abolition, with 31 countries having abolished the punishment in law or in practice in the last 10 years alone. Last year Gabon abolished capital punishment, becoming the 139th country to either abolish the penalty outright or to cease to use it in practice.
Amnesty expressed particular alarm, however, at the fact that a significant proportion of the executions or death sentences recorded in 2010 were for drug-related offences (more than half of 114 sentences in Malaysia were for drugs offences). Meanwhile, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and the UAE ignored international prohibitions and imposed death sentences on child offenders (individuals aged 17 or less when the alleged crimes were committed), and Iran executed a child offender named as Mohammad A.
There were also setbacks in 2010, with six countries or territories carrying out executions after a gap (Bahrain, Belarus, Equatorial Guinea, the Palestinian Authority, Somalia and Taiwan), and one country (Gambia) expanding the scope of the death penalty.
Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty said:
“The minority of states that continue to systematically use the death penalty were responsible for thousands of executions in 2010, defying the global anti-death penalty trend.
“While executions may be on the decline, a number of countries continue to pass death sentences for drug-related offences, economic crimes, sexual relations between consenting adults, and blasphemy - violating international human rights law forbidding the use of the death penalty except for the most serious crimes.
“In spite of some setbacks, developments in 2010 brought us closer to global abolition. The President of Mongolia announced a moratorium on the death penalty, an important first step as capital punishment is still classified as state secret. For the third time and with more support than ever before, the UN General Assembly called for a global moratorium on executions.
“Any country that continues to execute is flying in the face of the fact that both human rights law and UN human rights bodies consistently hold that abolition should be the objective.
“A world free of the death penalty is not only possible, it is inevitable. The question is how long will it take?”