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Amnesty International records fewer executions

April 21, 2020

The number of documented executions was the lowest in ten years, according to Amnesty International. But the human rights group estimates that thousands went unreported.

A syringe prepared for a lethal injection
Image: picture-alliance/blickwinkel/McPHOTOs

Iran is top of the list of reported exectutions in 2019, with 251 persons, four who were under-aged teenagers at the times of their alleged crimes, said Amnesty International in its annual report on death penalty on Tuesday. This figure compares to 249 the year before.

The NGO, however said they suspected that Iran's number was surpassed dramatically by China yet again, estimating it had carried out "thousands" of undisclosed executions in 2019.

China classifies data on its use of the death penalty as a "state secret," said Amnesty.

Citing only cases catalogued by rights groups worldwide, Amnesty recorded 657 executions in 20 nations, supposedly the lowest such count within 10 years.

Amnesty lists alphabetically the countries and their toll: Bahrain (3), Bangladesh (2), Belarus (2+), Botswana (1), China (+), Egypt (32+),  Iran (251+), Iraq (100+), Japan (3), North Korea (+), Pakistan (14+), Saudi Arabia (184), Singapore (4), Somalia (12+), South Sudan (11+), Sudan (1), Syria (+),USA (22), Viet Nam (+) and Yemen (7).

Read more: Why is Sri Lanka reinstating the death penalty?

Saudi G20 link

Placed third was Saudi Arabia,which last year executed 184 persons, a 23% increase on the previous year, said Amnesty, refering to this as a record number running counter the overall international decline. 37 people were beheaded in Saudi Arabia in 2019, several of them minors.

Amnesty pointed to Saudi Arabia's current presidency of the G20 economic cooperation and called on Western countries to demand an end to the execution of children and political opponents in the country.

Gyde Jensen, the head of the German parliament's human rights committee called on Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet to highlight Riyadh's "catastrophic human rights record" at every G20 meeting and demand that the country abolish the death penalty. The opposition FDP politician made these remarks in Tuesday's Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper.

Amnesty in its report asserted that Saudi Arabia had used the death penalty as a "political weapon" against the nation's Shiite minority.

"On 23 April [2019], there was a mass execution of 37 men, 32 of whom were from Saudi Arabia's Shi'a minority," said Amnesty in its report.

"They included 11 men convicted by the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) of spying for Iran and sentenced to death after a grossly unfair trial."

Special focus on Middle East 

Fourth on the list was Iraq, where executions almost doubled from 52 in 2018 to exceed one hundred, followed by Egypt with at least 32 executions, said Amnesty, noting that 88% of all death penalties were handed down in the Middle East and northern Africa.

On its register of persons sentenced and awaiting death in 2019, Amnesty counted 2,307 individuals in 56 nations — in comparison to 2531 in the previous year in 54 countries in 2018.

Diehards a 'small group'

"The death penalty is incompatible with fundamental human rights," the secretary general of Amnesty's branch in Germany, Markus N. Beeko pointed out, adding that it "should be abolished worldwide." He stressed the need to continue to focus on the "small group that year-for-year executes persons."

Of the almost 200 nations worldwide, about half of them, exactly 106, have over decades abolished capital punishment. 

Read more: Uganda introduces 'Kill the Gays' bill

Amnesty listed several African countries as abolitionists, including Equatorial Guinea, the Central African Republic, Kenya, Gambia and Zimbabwe.

And, it rated as positive an official moratorium in California, which has the highest number of inmates on death row of all US states.

Amnesty cited California's Governor Gavin Newson as saying the death penalty "has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent."

"It has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can't afford expensive legal representation," said Newson.

New Hampshire in 2019 became the 21st US state to drop capital punishment.

ipj/rg (dpa, epd, AFP, KNA)

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