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Source: Forbes

May 16, 2023

China, Iran And Saudi Arabia Responsible For Most Executions Last Year, Says Amnesty

BY Dominic Dudley

China and two Middle East countries accounted for the vast majority of known judicial executions last year, according to human rights group Amnesty International.

Amnesty did not offer a precise number for China, but said thousands of executions are thought to have been carried out by the government there in 2022. Across the rest of the world, the worst offenders were in the Middle East and North Africa, where the number of executive carried out rose from 520 in 2021 to 825 in 2022.

Iran was the most active user of the death penalty, executing 576 people last year amid a wave of popular protests following the death in custody in September of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. It was followed by Saudi Arabia with 196 executions last year.

Amnesty said in its latest Death sentences and executions report, published on May 16, that these countries were guilty of “killing sprees”.

“Saudi Arabia executed a staggering 81 people in a single day,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general and a former United Nations Human Rights Council special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

That was a reference to the events of March 12, 2022, when scores were put to death for crimes ranging from murder to political opposition to the regime.

Another campaigning group, Repreive, has previously said the rate of executions in Saudi Arabia has almost doubled since King Salman and his son Mohammed bin Salman came to power in 2015.

“Most recently, in a desperate attempt to end the popular uprising, Iran executed people simply for exercising their right to protest,” added Callamard.

In addition to the high figures in Iran and Saudi Arabia, Egypt executed 24 people and 18 were put to death in the U.S.

The global total of 883 known executions in 2022 was the highest in five years and marked a 51% rise on the figure for the year before. Just 20 countries were responsible for all these deaths, but the real number is far higher given the lack of transparency over the use of the death penalty in several countries.

As well as China, figures for North Korea and Vietnam were also not included in Amnesty’s report due to the lack of clarity on how often the penalty is imposed.

More countries join abolitionist trend

While five countries – Afghanistan, Kuwait, Myanmar, Palestine and Singapore – resumed executions in 2022, a further six countries fully or partially abolished the use of the death penalty.

Among them, Kazakhstan, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone and the Central African Republic abolished the death penalty for all crimes, while Equatorial Guinea and Zambia abolished it for ordinary crimes only.

Others are heading in the same direction, with Liberia and Ghana among those taking steps towards abolishing the death penalty.There were some other signs of improvement.

Amnesty said the number of recorded executions fell by 71% in Yemen last year, compared to 2021, as the intensity of the country’s civil war eased.

In the U.S., the number of executions increased by 64% compared to 2021 but this number was still relatively low compared to past years.

However, Amnesty also said the number of people executed for drug-related offences had more than doubled in 2022, with offenders killed in China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Singapore.

The organisation said this was despite this being a violation of international human rights law, which states that executions should only be carried out for the “most serious crimes” involving intentional killing.

“Close to 40% of all known executions were for drug-related offences,” said Callamard. “Importantly, it’s often those from disadvantaged backgrounds that are disproportionately affected by this callous punishment.”

There are signs this trend may be continuing this year. In March, Jordanian national Hussein Abu Al-Khair was executed in Saudi Arabia for drugs-related offences – although his supporters said his conviction was based on a confession extracted under torture.

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Dominic Dudley

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