04/10/2019, 13.15
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Death penalty in decline in 2018, but China always in first place

Amnesty International reports a 31% drop in 2018 over the previous year. Last year, executioners took the lives of 690 people compared to 993 in 2017. The five major executioners are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Iraq. In Iran, the number of executions dropped by 50 per cent.

London (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Executions in the world are falling for the first time in ten years, this according to Amnesty International’s 2018 annual review, which was released yesterday.

According to the NGO, China still leads the way, but official figures are unknown because they are classified as a “state secret". The human rights group believes that thousands of executions are carried out in that country.

However, some positive signs are visible. “[T]he number of executions carried out by several of the worst perpetrators has fallen significantly,” said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, adding that “even the most unlikely countries are starting to change their ways and realise the death penalty is not the answer”.

In total, worldwide death penalty figures dropped by 31% in 2018, from 993 in 2017, to 690 last year (China not included).

The leading executioners after China are: Iran (253), Saudi Arabia (149), Vietnam (at least 85) and Iraq (at least 52).

Vietnamese authorities’ decision to release figures for last year was “unprecedented” for the Southeast Asian nation, Amnesty noted.

Use of the death penalty dropped in Iran by 50 per cent, following a change to its anti-narcotics laws, as well as in Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia, the rights group notes in its annual review.

However, it rose in Belarus, Japan, Singapore, South Sudan and the United States, whilst Thailand resumed executions for the first time in a decade and Sri Lanka is threatening to do the same. In the latter, President Maithripala Sirisena lifted a 40-year moratorium, posting an executioner wanted ad.

Brunei is not in the annual review, but in early April, the country’s ruler reintroduced stoning for gays and adulterers.

Finally, the group notes a positive trend to end the inhumane treatment of prisoners. For example, Burkina Faso abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes in June. In February and July respectively, Gambia and Malaysia both declared an official moratorium on executions.

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

“Amnesty has been campaigning to stop executions around the world for more than 40 years,” he added, “but with more than 19,000 people still languishing on death row worldwide, the struggle is far from over”.

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