Closer to a Death-Penalty-Free World: But in 2008: 2390 Known Executions
Amnesty International released the report, Death Sentences and Executions in 2008, on March 24, 2009, www.amnesty.org.
Most of the world is moving a step closer to the abolition of the death penalty, with only 25 out of the 59 countries that retain the death penalty reported to have actually executed anyone in 2008. In spite of this trend, death sentences continue to be handed out in their hundreds all over the world.
Progress was undermined by countries like St Kitts and Nevis, which carried out the first execution in the Americas outside the USA since 2003, and Liberia, where the death penalty was introduced for the crimes of robbery, terrorism, and hijacking. Between January and December 2008 at least 2,390 people were executed in 25 countries around the world with at least 8,864 sentenced to death in 52 states.
Many countries handed down death sentences after unfair trials, like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen. The death penalty is often applied in a discriminatory manner, with a disproportionate number of sentences handed down to the poor, minorities, and members of racial, ethnic, and religious communities, in countries including Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and the US.
Many death row inmates languish in harsh detention conditions and face psychological hardship. For example, in Japan inmates are typically notified of their hanging only on the morning of their execution and their families are informed only after the execution has taken place. "Capital punishment is not just an act but a legalized process of physical and psychological terror that culminates in people being killed by the state. It must be brought to an end," said Irene Khan.
In Asia, 11 countries continue to practise the death penalty: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Japan, North Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Singapore, and Vietnam. China alone accounted for almost three quarters of the world's executions, carrying out at least 1,718 executions -- although the figure is believed to be much higher as statistics on death sentences and executions remain state secrets.
The Middle East and North Africa was the region with the second highest number of executions (508). In Iran, stoning and hanging were among the cruel and inhumane methods used with at least 346 people put to death, including eight juvenile offenders. In Saudi Arabia, where execution is usually by public beheading, at least 102 people were executed.
In the Americas, only the US consistently executes, with 37 executions carried out in 2008 including more in Texas than in any other state. The release of four men from death row in the US on grounds of innocence brings to more than 120 the number of such cases since 1975.
In Belarus, execution is done by a gunshot to the back of the head. No official information is given to relatives about the date of the execution or where the body is buried. Belarus carried out four executions in 2008 and remains the only country in Europe to retain the death penalty.
Only two officially recorded executions were carried out in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2008 but at least 362 people were sentenced to death.
Irene Khan concluded, "The death penalty
is the ultimate cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment. Beheadings,
electrocutions, hangings, lethal injections, shootings, and stonings
have no place in the 21st century."