Fewer state executions, says Amnesty

21 nations carried out state-sanctioned capital punishment last year, a drop from 28 countries a decade ago.

南宁桑拿

 

Amnesty says there were just over 680 executions, almost the same number as in 2011.

 

But the group warns that this number does not include thousands of secret executions, many of which are carried out in China.

 

David Crisante reports.

 

Once again China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States are the world’s biggest executioners.

 

Also included in the 21-country list is Gambia, which ended a 31-year hiatus by putting to death nine people in one day.

 

India carried out its first execution since 2004, hanging a Pakistani militant who carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

 

And Japan also ended its 20-month freeze of capital punishment.

 

Amnesty spokesman Michael Hayworth says these countries are violating human rights laws by executing prisoners.

 

“The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment. You shouldn’t receive it for any offence, no matter what the crime. Obviously, where people commit crimes, they need to be punished. But the death penalty isn’t an appropriate punishment and it’s the ultimate denial of human rights.”

 

Australia last carried out an execution in 1967 and since then has been one of the leading advocates of abolishing capital punishment.

 

Amnesty says about 140 countries have outlawed the death penalty in law or in practice.

 

But Michael Hayworth says executions are an entrenched form of punishment in a small number of nations.

 

“There are varying different reasons for why countries still continue to execute. Some cite cultural reasons, some cite wanting to be tough on crime. But the reality is those countries should join the trend towards abolition. They should come on board with their international neighbours and abolish this horrendous practice for ever.”

 

The United Nations has expressed particular concern over a number of executions that have been carried out this year.

 

This month, three men were executed in Kuwait, the first state-sanctioned deaths since 2007, and last month Indonesia carried out its first execution in four years.

 

Rupert Colville, from the UN’s Human Rights office, is calling for all countries to create an official moratorium on executions.

 

“In many cases, the death penalty involves clear violations of international norms and standards: for example when fair trial guarantees and due process are not respected, and when executions of juvenile offenders take place in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

 

One glaring omission from Amnesty’s figures is China.

 

Spokesman Michael Hayworth says there is no reliable information about executions in China, so the country was excluded from the 682 executions that Amnesty recorded last year.

 

He says China is believed to have executed thousands of people in secret and Amnesty calling on Australia to use its influence in the international community to help stop this practice.

 

“Australia needs to take a principled approach to the death penalty. They need to condemn executions regardless of who’s executed. This is what we’re calling for. If we see that, we’ll see our reputation in the Asia-Pacific change and we’ll see people consider us as principled opponents of the death penalty who believe in human rights.”

 

Falun Dafa Australia claims many practitioners of the spiritual discipline, which is banned in China, are detained and executed so that their organs can be harvested in secret.

 

Association president, Lucy Zhao says tens of thousands of people have been executed in secret since the government began its campaign against Falun Gong in 1999.

 

She says people in China are living in fear that their family and friends could disappear and be secretly executed without an arrest order.

 

“They may come back after a few weeks or a couple of months as a dead body or as ashes. And of course the government will not tell you that they were on the death penalty. They will just tell you these people died because they committed suicide or they had a heart attack in prison. But how can you believe that?”

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