Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 July 2019

Global executions at lowest level in a decade, Amnesty says

Use of the death penalty dropped in Iran by an eye-popping 50 per cent

A condemned inmate is led out of his cell on death row at San Quentin State Prison in California. AP
A condemned inmate is led out of his cell on death row at San Quentin State Prison in California. AP

The number of executions carried out across the world has fallen by a third to the lowest figure in a decade, Amnesty International said.

A review by the organisation showed a substantial reduction in the use of the death penalty in Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia. Executions in Iran also dropped by half, after a change to its drug laws.

But figures rose in Belarus, Japan, Singapore, South Sudan and the US, while last year Thailand reinstated the death penalty for the first time in a decade, with Sri Lanka considering similar action.

"Despite regressive steps from some countries, the number of executions carried out by several of the worst perpetrators has fallen significantly," said Amnesty International Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo.

He said the significant reduction in the number of executions showed that "even the most unlikely countries are starting to change their ways and realise the death penalty is not the answer".

He said the figures raised hopes that capital punishment would soon be abandoned by governments across the world.

The review showed that death penalty figures fell from at least 993 in 2017, to at least 690 last year.

It excluded China, which Amnesty said carried out the highest number of executions, because Beijing has classified death penalty statistics.

Amnesty estimates thousands of people are executed in China every year.

Iran carried out 253 executions last year, with Saudi Arabia (149), Vietnam (at least 85) and Iraq (at least 52) the other countries that resorted to the death penalty most often.

The decision by Vietnam to release figures for last year was unprecedented, Amnesty said.

Japan, Singapore and South Sudan reported their highest levels of executions in years.

Mr Naidoo said the three countries "now form a dwindling minority" and urged them to end the practice.

The review showed a growing global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty.

Burkina Faso adopted a new law that effectively banned executions, while Gambia and Malaysia both announced an official moratorium on the issue. Courts in the US state of Washington also declared the death penalty unconstitutional.

Amnesty highlighted a vote held in December by the United Nations General Assembly in which 121 countries supported a global moratorium on the death penalty, with only 35 nations opposed.

"Slowly but steadily, global consensus is building towards ending the use of the death penalty," Mr Naidoo said.

Updated: April 10, 2019 11:28 AM