Death Penalty: Latest worldwide statistics released by Amnesty International - China, Iran and U.S. at the Top
(Geneva), By abolishing the death penalty in law or
practice over half the countries in the world have set the path for the
remaining states who continue to violate the right to life, said Amnesty
International today (Apritl 6, 2004).
Releasing its statistics on
worldwide executions carried out during 2003, Amnesty International called on
the UN Commission on Human Rights to take strong action against
the death penalty at its annual session, currently sitting in Geneva, and to
move to end all executions.
In a resolution adopted last year, the
Commission on Human Rights called on countries that retain capital punishment
"to establish a moratorium on executions". A similar resolution is due for
consideration at the current session. Amnesty International urged all states to
The organization also urged the Commission to reiterate its
opposition to the use of the death penalty against child offenders -- people who
were under 18 at the time of the offence. Two child offenders were executed in
2003, one in China and one in the USA.
Amnesty International's report
revealed that China, Iran, the USA and Viet Nam accounted for 84 percent of the
1,146 known executions carried out in 28 countries in 2003.
limited and incomplete records available to Amnesty International indicated that
at least 726 people were executed in 2003, but the true figure was believed to
be much higher. A senior Chinese legislator suggested in March 2004 that China
executes "nearly 10,000" people each year. At least 108 executions were carried
out in Iran. Sixty-five people were executed in the USA. At least 64 people were
executed in Viet Nam.
At least 2,756 people were sentenced to death in 63
countries in 2003, according to Amnesty International's reports. The true
figures were certainly higher.
Amnesty International's figures also
showed that 77 countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes by the
end of 2003. This year the Samoan parliament adopted a bill in January
abolishing the death penalty, while in March a royal decree abolishing capital
punishment was issued in Bhutan.
"This year's figures show that as the
majority of countries follow an abolitionist path, others choose to remain on
the wrong side of the justice divide", Amnesty International
"Countries retaining the death penalty because of its supposed
power as a unique deterrent to crime are flying in the face of scientific
studies that fail to establish any such effect."
In Canada, for example,
the homicide rate per 100,000 population has fallen 40 per cent since the
abolition of the death penalty for murder in 1975.
Furthermore, the death
penalty always carried the risk of executing the innocent can never be
Since 1973, 113 prisoners have been released from death row
in the USA after evidence emerged of their innocence of the crimes for which
they were sentenced to death. Some came close to execution after spending many
years under sentence of death. Recurring features in their cases include
prosecutorial or police misconduct; use of unreliable witness testimony,
physical evidence, or confessions; and inadequate defence representation. Other
US prisoners have gone to their deaths despite serious doubts over their
"It is time for all governments to comply with their international
obligations. The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading
punishment and a flagrant denial of the right
to life," Amnesty International said.
For more information, please
"Death sentences and executions in 2003" http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGACT500062004
death penalty worldwide: Developments in 2003", http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGACT500072004
and Figures on the death penalty", http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGACT500082004
death penalty: List of abolitionist and retentionist countries" http://web.amnesty.org/pages/deathpenalty-countries-eng
of international treaties" http://web.amnesty.org/pages/deathpenalty-treaties-eng
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