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Amnesty International released a new report on capital punishment around the world last month. According to Death Sentences and Executions in 2010, Amnesty found that 23 countries imposed the death penalty during last year. Countries that use the death penalty are increasingly isolated following a decade of progress toward abolition, Amnesty International said on March 28 when they released their report. Overall, the total number of executions was down to 527. There were 714 reported executions during 2009. However, these minimum figures do not take full account of China, where thousands are believed to be executed every year and but authorities there remain very secretive about the use of capital punishment.
The United States continues to impose the death penalty in certain cases, making the US the only western nation part of the list. The 23 countries that used capital punishment in 2010 were primarily countries in the Middle East or Africa. China is believed to have the highest number of executions in the last year although no official number is known, followed by Iran (252+), North Korea (60+), Yemen (53+), USA, (46), Saudi Arabia (27+), Libya (18+), Syria (17+), Bangladesh (9+), Somalia (8+), Sudan (6+), Palestinian Authority (5), Egypt (4), Equatorial Guinea (4), Taiwan (4), Belarus (2), Iraq (1+), Malaysia (1+), Bahrain (1), Singapore (unknown number) and Vietnam (unknown number).
Unfortunately, there was at least 2,024 new death sentences imposed during 2010 in 67 countries, including 365 in Pakistan alone, meaning that some 8,000 people are currently on death row in Pakistan. The report also noted that a significant proportion of the executions or death sentences recorded in 2010 were for drug-related offenses. Meanwhile, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and the UAE ignored international prohibitions and imposed death sentences on child offenders (individuals aged 17 or less when the alleged crimes were committed), and Iran executed a child offender named as Mohammad A.
Amnesty points out in the report that the global trend is toward abolition. Thirty-one countries have abolished the punishment in law or in practice in the last ten years. Last year Gabon abolished capital punishment, becoming the 139th country to either abolish the penalty outright or to cease to use it in practice.
Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty discussed the figures found in the repot. “The minority of states that continue to systematically use the death penalty were responsible for thousands of executions in 2010, defying the global anti-death penalty trend.”
“While executions may be on the decline, a number of countries continue to pass death sentences for drug-related offences, economic crimes, sexual relations between consenting adults, and blasphemy – violating international human rights law forbidding the use of the death penalty except for the most serious crimes.”
“Any country that continues to execute is flying in the face of the fact that both human rights law and UN human rights bodies consistently hold that abolition should be the objective. A world free of the death penalty is not only possible, it is inevitable. The question is how long will it take?”