Amnesty assails use of executions to tackle threats
UNITED NATIONS: The “dark trend” of governments using executions in a “futile attempt to tackle real or imaginary threats” to state security and public safety was stark last year, Amnesty International said in its annual review of use of death penalty across the world.
“It is shameful that so many states around the world are essentially playing with people’s lives — putting people to death for terrorism or to quell internal instability on the ill-conceived premise of deterrence,” the watchdog said in the report released on Wednesday.
“Governments using the death penalty to tackle crime are deluding themselves. There is no evidence that shows the threat of execution is more of a deterrent to crime than any other punishment,” Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said.
Pakistan among the countries criticised for executing people committing terrorist acts
TOP EXECUTIONERS: Excluding China, at least 607 executions were known to have been carried out last year, compared to 778 in 2013, a decrease of more than 20 per cent.
China again carried out more executions than the rest of the world put together. Amnesty believes thousands are executed and sentenced to death there every year, but with numbers kept a secret the true figures are impossible to determine.
The other countries making up the world’s top five executioners last year were Iran (289 officially announced and at least 454 others that were not acknowledged by the authorities), Saudi Arabia (at least 90), Iraq (at least 61) and the US (35).
Executions were recorded in 22 countries in 2014, the same number as the year before. This is a significant decrease from 20 years ago in 1995, when Amnesty recorded executions in 42 countries, highlighting the clear global trend of states moving away from the death penalty.
“The numbers speak for themselves — the death penalty is becoming a thing of the past. The few countries that still execute need to take a serious look in the mirror and ask themselves if they want to continue to violate the right to life, or join the vast majority of countries that have abandoned this ultimate cruel and inhuman punishment,” said Mr Shetty.
STATE SECURITY: The “disturbing trend” of states using the death penalty to combat threats against state security was visible around the world, with China, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq all executing people accused of carrying out “terrorism”.
Pakistan resumed executions in the wake of a horrific Taliban attack on a Peshawar school. Seven people were executed in December, and its government has said it will put hundreds more convicted on terrorism-related charges to death.
In China authorities used the death penalty as a punitive tool in the “strike hard” campaign against unrest in the Xinjiang region. During the year, the authorities executed at least 21 people involved in separate attacks.
In countries including North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia, governments continued to use the death penalty as a tool to suppress political dissent, said the report.
There was a dramatic rise in the number of death sentences recorded in 2014 compared to the previous year — at least 2,466 compared to 1,925 — a jump of more than a quarter. This was largely due to developments in Nigeria and Egypt, where hundreds of people were sentenced to death.
In Nigeria, 659 death sentences were recorded in 2014, a jump of more than 500 compared with the 2013 figure of 141, said the report. Military courts handed down mass death sentences against some 70 soldiers during the year in separate trials. They were convicted of mutiny in the context of the armed conflict with Boko Haram.
In Egypt, courts handed down at least 509 death sentences last year, 400 more than recorded during the previous year. This included mass death sentences against 37 people in April and 183 people in June following unfair mass trials, the report added.