In 2016 the number of people put to death, the ultimate in cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, fell around the world says Amnesty International in its latest annual report.
Today 140 of the nations of the world have abolished capital punishment. The biggest of the remaining executioners are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.
Amnesty began campaigning against the death penalty 36 years ago. It says at least 1,032 people were executed in 23 countries, excluding China, a 37% drop on last year. But 2015 was the highest for nearly 30 years. And the number of those condemned to death has jumped sharply, from 1,998 to 3,117.
Today some 18,848 people around the world sit on death row.
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Chine is top once again this year, executing on its own more than all the other killing nations combined. Amnesty blasts Beijing for classifying most information regarding capital punishment as a “state secret”.
“I think the most alarming thing is that China continues to give thousands of people death sentences per year and execute thousands and yet we don’t know the extent. We don’t know the names of many of the people. We don’t know whether or not they have legal representation or other details like this,” says Amnesty China researcher William Nee.
“And the Chinese public cannot have an informed rational debate, because they don’t have the information, because the Chinese government continues to conceal the extent to which the death penalty is being used.”
Excluding China only four countries account for nearly 87% of global executions : Iran,
(567), Saudi Arabia, (154), Iraq, (88), and Pakistan, (87).
In the US executions are at an historic low, with only 20 death sentences carried out in 2015 compared to 28 the year before, and five times lower than the turn of the century.
Death sentences are also rarer, with just 32 handed down in 2016, the lowest since 1973.
Execution methods vary from hanging to lethal injection to firing squad or beheading, with capital crimes varying from country to country. The one point they all share is that they trample human rights.
Some states appear comfortable about executing people who were minors at the moment of their crime, or the mentally ill, with no due legal consideration.