According to the Amnesty International annual review of death sentences and executions, only 10 percent of the world’s countries, or 20 out of 198, carried out executions last year. But those countries that did, were extremely enthusiastic about it.
You didn’t have to be a murderer to be executed in 2011. People were executed or sentenced to death for a range of offenses including adultery and sodomy in Iran, blasphemy in Pakistan, sorcery in Saudi Arabia, the trafficking of human bones in the Republic of Congo, and drugs in more than 10 countries.
At least 676 people were executed with full public disclosure worldwide. Methods of execution in 2011 included beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.
Some 18,750 people remained under sentence of death at the end of 2011.
But, according to the report, these figures do not include the thousands of executions that Amnesty International believes were carried out in China, where the numbers are suppressed.
Nor do they account for the probable extent of Iran’s use of the death penalty – Amnesty International has received credible reports of substantial numbers of executions not officially acknowledged. Also – at least three people were executed in Iran for crimes that were committed when they were under age 18, in violation of international law. Four additional, unconfirmed, executions of minors were reported in Iran, and one in Saudi Arabia.
In the Middle East there has been a sharp rise in recorded executions – up almost 50 per cent over the previous year.
A mere four countries tipped the balance for the entire region: Iraq (at least 68 executions), Iran (at least 360), Saudi Arabia (at least 82) and Yemen (at least 41). These accounted for 99 per cent of all recorded executions in the Middle East and North Africa.
The rise in Iran and Saudi Arabia alone accounted for the net increase of 149 recorded executions across the world, compared to 2010.
But the press release which, in the end, is offering the information news outlets around the world will be quoting, is saying nothing about executions which took place in the Gaza strip, authorized by the Hamas government.
One has to download the report and search for “Hamas” (skipping over countless references to the Bahamas) to discover the statement:
“Three men were executed in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, and at least five death sentences imposed. All executions took place in Gaza under the Hamas de facto administration, and were carried out without the approval of the President of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Mahmoud Abbas as required under Palestinian law. One death sentence was reported from the PA-controlled West Bank, but President Abbas has refrained from approving any executions.”
Incidentally, when users check for “Palestinian Authority” in a drop-menu on Amnesty’s website, they are sent to the message: “There is no Amnesty International presence in this country.” This message is followed by: “However, you can still donate to Amnesty International or join as an International Member.”
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The United States remains the only country in the Americas and the only member of the G8 group of leading economies to execute prisoners – 43 in 2011.
Illinois became the 16th state to abolish the death penalty. A moratorium was announced in the state of Oregon.
Some countries are known to add the element of surprise to their executions: in Belarus and Vietnam, prisoners were not informed of their forthcoming execution, nor were their families or lawyers.
Showmanship was also employed in some places: public judicial executions are known to have been carried out in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia, as well as in Iran.
But Secretary General of Amnesty International Salil Shetty appears satisfied that the general trend in the area of executions of prisoners is moving in the right direction. “The vast majority of countries have moved away from using the death penalty,” he said, adding, “Even among the small group of countries that executed in 2011, we can see gradual progress. These are small steps but such incremental measures have been shown ultimately to lead to the end of the death penalty.”