On killing the death penalty

Amnesty International staged an interpretation of an execution scene during the event “An arena for human rights in China.”

China executed “thousands” of people in 2010 despite a declining global trend in the death penalty, Amnesty International says.

In its annual report on capital punishment published today, Amnesty said Chinese authorities executed more than the whole world combined. The exact number of those put to death in China remains unknown due to state secrecy, the London-based human rights group says.

“The Chinese government is very reluctant to publish figures,” Roseann Rife from Amnesty International told Metro. “Therefore, it is hard to confirm any reductions in executions China may claim.”

Iran, North Korea, Yemen and the United States join China in the top five executing countries “increasingly isolated following a decade of progress toward abolition,” Amnesty says. Iran killed at least 252, North Korea at least 60, Yemen at least 53 and the United States 46 over the course of last year, according to the report.

Yet the number of executions worldwide is falling, with the official count (excluding China) dropping from at least 714 in 2009 to at least 527 in 2010, according to Amnesty’s latest estimates.

“The minority of states that continue to systematically use the death penalty were responsible for thousands of executions in 2010,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

He added: “In spite of some setbacks, developments in 2010 brought us closer to global abolition.”

However, Amnesty notes that some countries still issue capital punishment for less-serious crimes such as drug offenses or adultery, especially in the Middle East and North Africa.

“While executions may be on the decline, a number of countries continue to pass death sentences for drug-related offenses, 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,” said Salil Shetty.

Capital punishment returned to Europe after its first-ever execution-free year in 2009, when Belarus put to death two men in March 2010.


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