Death penalty 2018: dramatic fall in global executions
Global executions fell by almost one-third last year to the lowest figure in at least a decade, Amnesty International said in its 2018 global review of the death penalty published today. The statistics assess known executions worldwide except in China, where figures thought to be in their thousands remain classified as a state secret.
- Global executions fell by 31%, reaching lowest figure in at least a decade
- But several countries saw a rise in executions, including Belarus, Japan, Singapore, South Sudan and USA
- Thailand resumed executions, Sri Lanka threatened to follow suit
- China remained world’s top executioner, followed by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Viet Nam and Iraq
Following a change to its anti-narcotics laws, executions in Iran – a country where the use of the death penalty is rife – fell by a staggering 50%. Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia also showed a significant reduction in the number they carried out. As a result, execution figures fell globally from at least 993 in 2017, to at least 690 in 2018.
“The dramatic global fall in executions proves that even the most unlikely countries are starting to change their ways and realize the death penalty is not the answer,” said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
“Despite regressive steps from some, the number of executions carried out by several of the worst perpetrators has fallen significantly. This is a hopeful indication that it’s only a matter of time before this cruel punishment is consigned to history, where it belongs.”
Reinstating the death penalty
However, it wasn’t all good news. Amnesty International found increases in executions in Belarus, Japan, Singapore, South Sudan and the USA. Thailand carried out its first execution since 2009, while Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena declared he would resume executions after more than 40 years, posting an advert seeking executioners in February 2019.
“The positive news of 2018 has been marred by a small number of states who are shamefully determined to buck the trend,” said Kumi Naidoo.
“Japan, Singapore and South Sudan reported their highest levels of executions in years, and Thailand resumed executions after almost a decade; but these countries now form a dwindling minority. To all the countries that still resort to the death penalty, I challenge you to act boldly and put a stop to this abhorrent punishment now.”
"I challenge you to act boldly and put a stop to this abhorrent punishment now."
Noura Hussein, a young Sudanese woman, was sentenced to death in May 2018 for killing the man she was forced to marry as he tried to rape her. After global outrage, including major campaigning efforts from Amnesty International, her death sentence was over-turned, and she was instead given a five-year prison sentence and asked to pay financial compensation, customarily known as Diya or “blood money” of 337,500 Sudanese pounds (around US$8,400) to the victim’s family.
Noura told Amnesty International: “I was in absolute shock when the judge told me I had been sentenced to death. I hadn’t done anything to deserve to die. I couldn’t believe the level of injustice – especially on women. I’d never imagined being executed before that moment. The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘How do people feel when they are executed? What do they do?’. My case was especially hard as at the time of sentencing, my family had disowned me. I was alone dealing with the shock.”
The world’s top executioners
China remained the world’s top executioner – but the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China is unknown as this data is classified as a state secret. Amnesty International believes thousands of people are sentenced to death and executed each year.
In an unprecedented move, death penalty figures were made publicly available by authorities in Viet Nam, who reported that at least 85 executions took place in 2018. This tally confirms its place within the world’s top five executing countries: China (1000s), Iran (at least 253), Saudi Arabia (149), Viet Nam (at least 85) and Iraq (at least 52).
Despite a significant decrease in the number of executions it carried out, Iran still accounted for more than one third of executions recorded globally.
Amnesty International was also concerned about a sharp spike in the number of death sentences that were imposed in some countries over the course of the year.
In Iraq, the number quadrupled from at least 65 in 2017, to at least 271 in 2018. In Egypt, the number of death sentences handed down rose by more than 75%, from at least 402 in 2017, to at least 717 in 2018. This rise can be attributed to the Egyptian authorities’ appalling track record of handing out mass death sentences after grossly unfair trials often based on “confessions” obtained under torture and flawed police investigations.
Global trend towards abolition
Overall, 2018’s figures show that the death penalty is firmly in decline, and that effective steps are being taken across the world to end the use of this cruel and inhuman punishment.
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Source — Amnesty