Executions increased last year, resumed in several countries, and were used for lighter offences, according to Amnesty International’s ‘Death Penalty in 2012’ report.
The global total of 682 confirmed executions was two higher than 2011, although Amnesty acknowledged the actual number was far higher. In a “worrying setback”, G20 nations Japan and India carried out their first executions since 2010 and 2004 respectively, and Pakistan it’s first since 2008. China executed most people, with thousands of known instances, but these are a state secret.
The highest recorded total was 314 in Iran, with the actual figure closer to 600. Public executions and televised confessions rose sharply in 2012 under President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad, and the number of death sentences for homosexuality and irreligious behavior increased. ”Iran has got away from us and its painful to watch”, Amnesty expert Drewery Dike told Metro. ”Human rights in general have been ground into the dust. ”
The US remains in the top five, executing 43 people in 2012 – the same as 2011. Connecticut became the 17th state to abolish the death penalty, with two more close to a moratorium. Texas conducted the most with 15 but campaigners cite progress there too: “death sentences are dropping to historically low levels, as there has been greater discussion about the exorbitant cost and the alternative of life in prison without parole”, said Kristin Houle of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Amnesty also expressed concern at a rise in cruel methods of execution. “Some methods such as crucifixion in Saudi Arabia are horrific and disturbing, although we are keen to avoid saying any method is ‘better’“, said Audrey Gaughan, Director of Global Issues.