Published on
The Guardian/UK

World Is Moving Towards Banning Death Penalty, says Reprieve

Report says five nations responsible for almost all state executions in past year

Duncan Campbell

The world is moving closer to the final abolition of the death
penalty, according to the latest figures published to coincide with
World Day against the Death Penalty today.

Currently, five nations are responsible for almost all the state executions carried out in the past year.

far, a total of 137 countries have abolished the death penalty in law
or practice, while 60 countries retain its use, usually for people
convicted of murder.

At least 1,252 people were known to be
executed in 24 countries during 2007. Of all the executions in 2007,
88% took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the US.

the end of the 2007, 91 countries had abolished the death penalty for
all crimes and last year a further three countries (Albania, Cook
Islands and Rwanda) joined their number, according to Reprieve, which
represents death row prisoners around the world.

"The reality
is that, despite the progress that has been made over the last 18
months, there are still thousands of people being executed every year
around the world," said Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve.

have witnessed the barbarity of this sentence in person, having been
present at the execution of four of my clients and can say that one
execution is too many. We cannot rest until capital punishment becomes
little more than an embarrassing chapter in our history."

In Europe, only Belarus retains capital punishment and abandonment of the death penalty is a prerequisite for joining the EU.

US is the only country in the Americas to have carried out any
executions since 2003 but the 53 executions in 2006 represented the
lowest annual total for a decade, and death sentences continue to drop
from a peak in the mid-1990s.

China is, by far, the country, that
makes most use of the penalty. "Asia leads the way globally as the
continent that carries out the most executions," said Amnesty
International UK director, Kate Allen.

"The number of
executions carried out by China last year makes them the world's number
one 'executioner'. This year we have seen a noticeable increase in the
use of the death penalty in Japan. Executions in that country are
typically shrouded in secrecy. And in Pakistan, there are approximately
7,500 people including children, on death row ... We call on Asia's state
leaders to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolish
the death penalty."

In some areas with a long tradition of
executions, such as central Asia, there is a clear move towards
abolition. Recently, Kyrgyzstan abolished the death penalty for
ordinary crimes, Kazakhstan has had a moratorium on executions since
2003 and Tajikistan has had moratoriums on executions and death
sentences since 2004.

In Africa, only six countries carried out
executions in 2006. Last year, the the high court in Malawi declared
the mandatory death penalty unconstitutional and Rwanda abolished it.
Burundi, Gabon and Mali are taking steps towards abolition.

seven countries the death penalty is applied for consensual sexual acts
between adults of the same sex: Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan,
United Arab Emirates, Yemen and parts of Nigeria.

Iran retains
the death penalty for a large number of offences, among them "cursing
the Prophet," certain drug offences, murder, adultery, incest, rape,
drinking alcohol and sodomy and last year Iran executed at least 317
people, including eight juvenile offenders.

In 2007, Saudi
Arabia executed at least 143 people, including children and three
women. Since January 2008 the figure has already reached 58.

retains the death penalty for 26 offences, including murder, blasphemy,
arms trading, drug trafficking, armed robbery, stripping a woman of her
clothes in public, extramarital sex, and rape. Yemen also retains it
for a variety of offences, among them endangering transport and
communications, apostasy, robbery, prostitution and adultery.

Reports of executions in 2007 China: 470+ Iran: 317+ Saudi Arabia: 143+ Pakistan: 135+ US: 42 Iraq: 33+ Vietnam: 25+ Yemen: 15+ Afghanistan: 15 Libya: 9+


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