Friday, April 27, 2007

Amnesty Int. Report: Executions declined in 2006

China made the list as the top worst executioner. See more reactions to the report here and here.

China's human rights record, not only concerning capital punishment but also freedom of expression and other issues, is "so contrary to the spirit of the Olympics," she added.

France24: Friday, April 27, 2007

Amnesty's 2006 data shows a fall in worldwide executions and a fall in the number of countries imposing the death penalty. China, Iran, Iraq, the United States, Pakistan and Sudan account for about 90 percent of the total, and China the bulk of these.

ROME, April 27, 2007 (AFP) - Judicial executions dropped sharply in 2006, and "hardline" countries that still practise the death penalty are increasingly isolated, Amnesty International said Friday.

The vast majority of the world's executions occur in China, where 1,051 were carried out last year, according to unofficial figures, although the true figure is believed to be between 7,000 and 8,000, Amnesty secretary general Irene Kahn told a news conference.

"Our figures on executions and death sentences are what we are able to gather. Unfortunately the death penalty is still shrouded in such secrecy that we fear the numbers are much, much higher," Kahn said as she unveiled the London-based rights group's annual report on the death penalty.

China and five other countries -- Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and the United States -- accounted for more than 90 percent of judicial executions in 2006, the Amnesty report says.

"This shows that the death penalty is now the exception rather than the norm, and that the hardliners are more and more isolated," Kahn said.

Amnesty launched the report in Italy "because this country has been in the forefront of the campaign for a universal moratorium on the death penalty for a long time," she said.

The Italian government said in January, when it became a member of the UN Security Council, that it would use its tenure to get the UN General Assembly to adopt a resolution for a universal moratorium on capital punishment, but has yet to forward any such proposal.

Kahn met Thursday with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who she said "seemed to be very keen" to find ways to build a broad coalition to advocate abolition of capital punishment.

"There is now a real momentum to end capital punishment," Kahn said, urging "strong political leadership to build broad global support so that the hard-core top executioners may be isolated."

In the 40 years since Amnesty has been campaigning for the abolition of capital punishment, the number of countries to have eliminated it has risen from 16 to 88.

"The overall trend for some years now has been ... downward," Kahn said, adding that "vast geographical regions are now execution-free."

The United States is the only country in the Americas that has carried out any executions since 2003.

In Africa, including north Africa, six countries carried out executions in 2006, while in Europe, only Belarus still applies the death penalty.

A total of 1,591 people were executed, down from 2,148 in 2005, Kahn said.

After China, Iran was in second place with at least 177 executions, Pakistan with at least 82, Iraq and Sudan with at least 65 each and the United States with 53 in 12 states.

Kahn slammed the Iraqi government for reinstating the death penalty in 2004 after a brief suspension following the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

"As we know, the number of violent killings has grown" in Iraq, Kahn said, adding: "The death penalty has only further brutalised the country."

Charging that "the Iraqi justice system is incapable of holding a fair trial," she said a death sentence there is the "ultimate form of injustice."

Kahn said China is "clearly under pressure" in the run-up to next year's Olympic Games in Beijing.

"We hope the Olympics will bring more international attention and scrutiny to the practice of the death penalty in this country," Kahn said.

China's human rights record, not only concerning capital punishment but also freedom of expression and other issues, is "so contrary to the spirit of the Olympics," she added.

In the United States, Kahn said, the "machine of death is highly flawed," citing inconsistency, arbitrariness, errors and cruelty in the application of capital punishment there.
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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