2012 was consistent with the ongoing global trend towards the abolishment of the death penalty, according to Amnesty International's annual report on the topic.
While the number of executions remains stable, at least 682 in 2012 and 680 in 2011, the number of death sentence decreased noticeably. In 2011, 63 countries sentenced 1923 people to death. In 2012, it decreased to 1722 new death sentences in 58 countries.
In the long run, Amnesty International points out, there is a downward trend. Last year’s 682 executions took place in 21 different countries, compared with 28 countries in 2003.
Last year Latvia removed the last capital crimes from its legislation, becoming the 97th country to do so. In Europe and Central Asia, only Belarus continues to carry out executions: at least three in 2012.
Asia saw some positive developments as well. “Vietnam did not carry out any death sentence, while Singapore observed a moratorium on the death penalty […] Mongolia ratified a key international treaty committing the country to abolition,” says the report.
The death penalty in the world. Map by euronews
However, the NGO warns in a press release: “these figures do not include the thousands of executions that [we] believe were carried out in China, where the numbers are kept secret.” Amnesty International nevertheless estimates that “China has once again executed more people than the rest of the world combined.”
The top five executing countries are China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and USA according to the report. Last year also saw an increase in executions in countries that have not used it in some time, such as India, Japan, Pakistan and Gambia, where the nine executions in 2012 were the first ones in over 30 years.
“Only one in 10 countries in the world carries executions” says Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International in the statement. “Their leaders should ask themselves why they are still applying a cruel and inhumane punishment that the rest of the world is leaving behind.”
Methods of executions in 2012, the reports states, include hanging, beheading, firing squad and lethal injection. In Saudi Arabia, the body of a man executed through beheading was displayed in what is known as “crucifixion.”