Death Penalty: 20,000 on death row across the world
International today revealed that over 20,000 people on
death row across the world are waiting to be killed by their own governments.
In its latest annual
analysis on the use of the death penalty worldwide, Amnesty International
also disclosed that at least 2,148 people were executed during 2005 in 22
countries -- 94 percent in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the USA alone. 5,186
people were sentenced to death in 53 countries during 2005.
organization cautioned that these figures are approximate because of the secrecy
surrounding the death penalty. Many governments, like China, refuse to publish
full official statistics on executions while Viet Nam has even classified
statistics and reporting on the death penalty as a 'state
"Figures around the death penalty are truly disturbing: 20,000
people are counting down to the day when the state will take their life. The
death penalty is the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights, because it
contravenes the essence of human values, It is often applied in a discriminatory
manner, follows unfair trials or is applied for political reasons. It can be an
irreversible error when there is miscarriage of justice," said Irene Khan,
Amnesty International's Secretary General.
"The death penalty is not a
unique deterrent against crime. Instead of relying on the illusion of control
given by the death penalty, governments must focus on developing effective
measures against crime."
Despite the shocking figures on the death
penalty, the trend towards abolition continues to grow: the number of countries
carrying out executions halved in the last 20 years and has dropped for the
fourth consecutive year. Mexico and Liberia are the two most recent examples of
countries that have abolished the death penalty.
"As the world continues
to turn away from the use of the death penalty, it is a glaring anomaly that
China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the USA stand out for their extreme use of this
form of punishment as the 'top' executors in the world," said Ms Khan.
China -- the country that accounts for almost 80% of all executions -- a person
can be sentenced and executed for as many as 68 crimes, including non-violent
crimes such as tax fraud, embezzlement and drug offences.
Arabia, people have been taken from their prison cells and executed without
knowing that a death sentence has been passed against them. Others have been
tried and sentenced to death in a language they didn't speak or read.
the US, two men were released from death row in 2005 after evidence of their
Iran was the only country known to Amnesty
International to have executed juvenile offenders in 2005. Iran executed at
least eight people in 2005 for crimes committed when they were children,
including two who were still under the age of 18 at the time of their execution.
The USA banned the execution of juvenile offenders in March 2005 having
previously been a "world leader" in the practice.
"The fact that the
USA, which was the world's main perpetrator for the execution of juvenile
offenders, has now ended the practice should be a clear message to those
remaining countries that execute children that this barbaric practice must stop.
The US Supreme Court decision banning the execution of juvenile offenders is one
of the final milestones on the road to a remarkable human rights achievement:
the global abolition of death penalty for children" said Ms Khan.
countries, the use of the death penalty may be dangerously mixed with economic
interests. In China, many worry that the high profits behind organ transplants
from those executed might act as an incentive to maintain the death penalty.
In many countries, inhumane procedures often exacerbate the inherent
cruelty of being on death row. For example, in Belarus and Uzbekistan neither
death row prisoners nor their relatives are informed of the date of the
execution in advance, denying them a last chance to say goodbye. The body of the
prisoner is not given to relatives for burial and they are not informed of the
place of burial.
Amnesty International's report also highlights the
deadly consequences of unfair trials.
In Japan, a number of people have
been sentenced to death after ill-treatment and the extraction of forced
"confessions" for crimes they did not commit.
The flawed criminal
justice systems in Uzbekistan and Belarus provides a fertile ground for judicial
error. Executions in Uzbekistan often follow credible allegations of unfair
trials, torture and ill-treatment, often to extract "confessions".
momentum against the death penalty has become unstoppable. In 1977, only 16
countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes. By 2005, that figure
had risen to 86. Amnesty International's campaign will continue until every
death sentence is commuted and capital punishment abolished," declared Ms
"Human rights are for the guilty as well as the innocent, the best
of us and the worst of us. That is why the death penalty must be abolished
death penalty statistics cover the period between January and December
Data available to Amnesty International pointed to around 1,770
executions reported as being carried out in China during 2005. However, the real
figure is undoubtedly much higher. A Chinese legal expert was recently quoted as
stating the true figure for executions at approximately 8,000.
executed at least 94 people, Saudi Arabia at least 86. There were 60 executions
in the US.
For a copy of Amnesty International's Death Penalty
statistics 2005, please see:
World developments - http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGACT500052006
and Figures - http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGACT500062006
sentences and executions - http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENG500022006
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