04/13/2018, 16.35
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Amnesty International on the death penalty: China remains world’s top executioner

Little is known about "thousands" of executions, especially in Xinjiang. Vietnam and North Korea also do not release information. Overall, 993 executions were recorded in 2017, 84 per cent in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan. Mongolia abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Russia continue their moratorium.

London (AsiaNews) – Amnesty International has released its global report on ‘Death sentences and executions 2017’. “[O]nce again China was the world’s top executioner, implementing more death sentences than the rest of the world combined,” the document explained.

Overall death penalty figures show a decline. At least 993 executions were carried out in 23 countries in 2017, down by 4 per cent from 2016 (1,032 executions) and 39 per cent from 2015 (1,634 executions, the highest number since 1989).

Worldwide, Asia remains the place where people can be more easily executed. Amnesty’s data also does not include the thousands of cases treated as a state secret by the governments of China, Vietnam and North Korea.

With respect to the People’s Republic, Amnesty International monitored the use of the death penalty throughout the year, as well as judicial verdicts uploaded on the online database maintained by China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC).

In light of the situation, the NGO “renewed its challenge to the Chinese authorities to be transparent and make such information publicly available”, expressing particular concern “about the lack of transparency and potential underreporting of death penalty cases in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR)”.

Amnesty International was in fact unable to find any significant data about this region, except for one new death sentence uploaded to the SPC database. The lack of information is ominous given the fact that Chinese authorities have declared a “People’s War” and “strike hard” campaign against the region’s largely Muslim ethnic minorities.

With respect to published data, Iran continues to top the list with 51 per cent of all recorded executions: 507+, where the plus sign indicates that more executions were carried out that were recorded.

Of the known executions, 31 were carried out in public, and at least five of the people executed were under 18 at the time of the crime for which they were sentenced to death.

Despite the grim statistics, Amnesty International acknowledged at least two positive developments. The overall number of executions dropped by 11 per cent (567 in 2016) and Iranian authorities limited the use of the death penalty in drug-related offences.

A similar decline in executions was recorded in second ranked Saudi Arabia, which put to death 146 people in 2017, 5 per cent less in 2016 (154).

Conversely, third ranked Iraq executed 125+ people, 42 per cent more than in 2016 (88+), especially in terrorism-related cases (65). All executions in the Arab country were ordered by federal authorities, none by the government of Iraqi Kurdistan.

For its part, fourth ranked Pakistan saw a significant drop in the number of death sentences, down to 60+, compared to 87+ in 2016 and 326 in 2015.

The Amnesty International report also highlighted the use of capital punishment in drug-related crimes. In addition to Iran's changes, the NGO praised Malaysia's decision to abolish the mandatory death penalty for drug offenses.

Japan instead comes in for criticism after it carried out four executions in secrecy, without providing any prior notification to the prisoners, their families and legal representatives

Good news instead has come from Mongolia, whose revamped Penal Code (adopted in December 2015 and in force as of 1 July 2017) abolishes the death penalty for all crimes.

The report also noted that in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Russia continued to observe a moratorium on executions.

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