New report shows world executions at second-highest level in 25 years

The new report - The death penalty worldwide: developments in 2004 - shows that at least 3,797 people were executed in 25 countries in 2004 and that at least 7,395 were sentenced to death in 64 countries. This was the highest rate since 1996.

Just four countries accounted for 97% of all executions, as China executed at least 3,400 people, Iran executed at least 159, Vietnam at least 64 and the USA executed 59 prisoners.

China refuses to give official figures for annual executions, but in March 2004 a delegate at the National People's Congress said that "nearly 10,000" people are executed each year in China.

Through its analysis of trials, Amnesty International believes that 3,400 deaths is a credible minimum for actual Chinese executions last year.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

"This is an alarming rise in executions and the figures uncovered from China are genuinely frightening. And what is more, these executions are believed to be only the tip of the iceberg, with many countries continuing to execute people in secret.

"It is deeply disturbing that the vast majority of those executed in the world last year did not even have fair trials and many were convicted on the basis of 'evidence' extracted under torture.

"The death penalty is cruel and unnecessary, does not deter crime and runs the risk of killing the wrongly convicted. It is time to consign the death penalty to the dustbin of history."

Thousands of people around the world remain on death row, including Scotsman Kenny Richey, convicted in 1987 of murder and arson in Ohio, USA.

Mr Richey's conviction was overturned on appeal earlier this year but he remains at risk of execution because Ohio prosecutors are seeking to have the appeal decision set aside.

Kate Allen added:

"Last year I visited Scotsman Kenny Richey on death row in Ohio and saw the true wretchedness of a system that can condemn someone to years of calculated cruelty as they await death at the hands of the state.

"Even now Kenny is effectively suspended between life and death. We want to see Ohio prosecutors accept the senior state court’s decision and release Kenny immediately."

Amnesty International's report also focuses on executions of child offenders. These are illegal under international law yet in 2004 Iran allowed the execution of three child offenders, including a 16-year-old girl - Atefeh Rajabi - who was publicly hanged in the street for "acts incompatible with chastity".

China also allowed the execution of a farmer aged below 18 at the time of the crime.

The death penalty worldwide also looks at progress on the death penalty.

In 2004 Ryan Matthews became the 115th prisoner in the USA since 1973 to be released from death row on the grounds of innocence.

He had been sentenced to death in Louisiana in 1999 for a murder committed when he was 17.

And in March this year the US Supreme Court ruled that imposing death sentences against child offenders contravened the US constitution.

This move meant that all countries have now formally rejected the application of the death penalty to child offenders.

Amnesty International's report also notes moves toward greater global abolition.

Five countries abolished the death penalty for all crimes in 2004:

  • Bhutan
  • Greece
  • Samoa
  • Senegal
  • Turkey

This meant that in total 120 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Amnesty International also welcomed the decisions of several countries to adopt constitutional provisions precluding the death penalty.

Turkey prohibited the death penalty in its constitution in 2004, as did Belgium in February this year. Other countries with recently enacted constitutional prohibitions of the death penalty include Ireland and Turkmenistan.

Executions in 2004:

  • China: 3,400+
  • Iran: 159+
  • Vietnam: 64+
  • USA: 59
  • Saudi Arabia: 33+
  • Pakistan: 15+
  • Kuwait: 9+
  • Bangladesh: 7+
  • Egypt: 6+
  • Singapore: 6+
  • Yemen: 6+
  • Belarus: 5+
  • Tajikstan: 4+
  • Uzbekistan: 4+
  • Indonesia: 3
  • Lebanon: 3
  • Taiwan 3
  • Sudan: 2+
  • Syria: 2+
  • Japan: 2
  • Afghanistan: 1
  • India: 1
  • Jordan: 1
  • Korea (North): e
  • Somalia: e

Note: a "+" symbol indicates that the figure is a minimum one; the true figure is at least the figure shown, but may be higher.

Note: an "e" symbol indicates that there were executions (at least one) but that Amnesty International does not know how many.

Amnesty International on the death penalty

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