'Death Penalty Down by Four Percent'

James Osgood

James Osgood

Amnesty International's latest annual report has found fewer executions were carried out around the world in 2017 than the year prior.

He noted that the number of people on death row in Nigeria is also the highest in the region, although no executions were carried out in 2017. This number is down to a variation in figures for a number of countries, and because of information provided to Amnesty by authorities.

The number of USA states carrying out executions increased from five in 2016 to eight, with Arkansas, Ohio and Virginia resuming executions after a hiatus. The country carried out at least two executions in 2017, and at least four new death sentences were imposed. Amnesty International capital punishment expert, Oluwatosin Popoola, warns there are caveats.

Amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 to allow some sentencing discretion by judges show the use of the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia "is cracking", according to Amnesty International (AI).

Despite dropping 11 percent from 2016, Iran holds the highest known figure, with at least 507 executions in 2017.

The reasons behind the declines in those countries are varied. The only thing that is clear is that "executions [in 2017] have decreased after recent peaks". Amnesty did not record executions in five countries - Botswana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Sudan and Taiwan - that carried out executions in 2016. "They are using executions less than they used to", he told Newsweek.

Rep. Joseph Marino, the political independent on the committee and a lawyer, said he can't "get past the fact that we might execute an innocent person".

The findings also highlight a massive blind spot. "If we put in all the other executions that happen all around the world, they would be a fraction of what happens in China in one year".

The countries known to have executed people for drug-related crimes are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Singapore. "It is high time that the rest of the world follows their lead and consigns this abhorrent punishment to the history books", said Amnesty's Secretary General Salil Shetty. "Mass executions were carried out on several occasions during the year, with dozens of men being executed in September".

The report also expressed the group's concern that Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates all resumed executions in 2017.

A Senate committee has approved abolishing the death penalty in Louisiana. Gambia called a moratorium, promising that the next step would be abolition.

Executions worldwide, not including China, dropped for the second year in a row.

The bulk of the executions were carried out after Mohammed Bin Salman was appointed crown prince in July, figures from rights group Reprieve suggest.

Generally, death sentences decreased from 1,086 in 17 countries in 2016 to 878 in 15 countries in 2017. However, Amnesty did register nearly 22,000 cases of prisoners on death row around the world. JP Morrell (D-New Orleans), says the death penalty is ineffective.

Although Tehran was praised for taking steps a year ago to reduce the death sentence for drug offences, still 40 per cent of the executions were drug-related.

"[The] death sentence is barbaric, it's inhumane", Landry said.

Across Asia-Pacific, the death penalty was extensively used for offences that did not meet the threshold of the "most serious crimes", going against global law, Amnesty stated. The leadership of countries in this region gives fresh hope that the abolition of the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is within reach.

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