Death Penalty “Club”: China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi-Arabia And The US

On Tuesday, Amnesty International released its report concerning death sentences and executions in 2009. The report reveals that at least 714 people were executed in 18 countries and at least 2001 people were sentenced to death in 56 countries last year. The report shows that countries that still carry out executions are the exception rather than the rule. In addition to China, the worst offending nations were Iran with at least 388 executions, Iraq with at least 120, Saudi-Arabia with at least 69, and the United States with 52.

Americans should be embarrassed to be associated with China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi-Arabia in this regard, but the real problem, as far as capital punishment is China. According to Amnesty International, China conducted more executions in 2009 than all countries combined world wide. The figures in Amnesty International report exclude the thousands of executions that were likely to have taken place in China, where information on the death penalty remains a state secret.

Amnesty International is challenging the Chinese authorities to reveal how many people were put to death.

“The Chinese authorities claim that fewer executions are taking place. If this is true, why don’t they tell the world how many people the state put to death?” said Amnesty International’s Claudio Cordone.

According to Amnesty International report, 2009 saw capital punishment applied to send political messages, to silence opponents or to promote political agendas in China, Iran and Sudan. In Iran, 112 executions were known to have taken place in the aftermath of the contested presidential election in June 2009. The report also addressees the discrimination in the way the death penalty was applied in 2009, after “grossly unfair trials, and used disproportionately against the poor, minorities and members of racial, ethnic and religious communities”.

Despite this, the report shows that the world continues to move towards abolition of the death penalty in 2009. The number of countries that have removed capital punishment entirely from their laws rose to 95, as Burundi and Togo abolished the death penalty for all crimes. No executions took place in Europe in 2009. Across the Americas, the United States was the only country to carry out executions.

However, a public opinion shift could be under way in the United States towards favoring the abolition of capital punishment. Death penalty sentencing is overall in decline across the US, as the country seems to move away from death sentence to permanent imprisonment. In 2009, the number of new death sentences nationwide reached the lowest level since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. California, however, lags behind, the Golden State sent more people to death row in 2009 than in the seven preceding years.

“Nationwide, we are seeing a shift due to growing concerns about the wrongful conviction of innocent people and the high costs of the death penalty in comparison to permanent imprisonment. Sates like Texas, which used to rival California in the number of new death sentences, have seen a dramatic reduction in use of the death penalty,” said Natasha Minsker of the ACLU.

“The death penalty is cruel and degrading and an affront to human dignity. Fewer countries than ever before are carrying out executions. As it did with slavery and apartheid, the world is rejecting this embarrassment to humanity. We are moving closer to a death penalty free world, but until that day, every execution must be opposed,” concludes Amnesty International Claudio Cordone.

For more information on Amnesty International report click here or to read the complete report click here.

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