Amnesty International, in its just released annual report ‘Death Sentences and Executions 2014,’ has alleged that governments around the world are using the threat of terrorism, whether real or perceived, to advance executions.
“Governments using the death penalty to tackle crime are deluding themselves. There is no evidence that shows the threat of execution is more of a deterrent to crime than any other punishment. The dark trend of governments using the death penalty in a futile attempt to tackle real or imaginary threats to state security and public safety was stark last year. It is shameful that so many states around the world are essentially playing with people’s lives – putting people to death for ‘terrorism’ or to quell internal instability on the ill-conceived premise of deterrence,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s Secretary General.
On one hand, the number of executions worldwide was down by almost 22% last year; at least 607 people were executed around the world in 2014, compared to 778 in 2013. On the other hand, the report highlights a marked increase in the number of people sentenced to death in 2014 – 2,466, an increase of 28% compared to 2013.
“Even though we’ve highlighted some of the negative developments… I think we would always highlight that there are positive developments. Across the board, with the exception of Europe and Central Asia there were fewer reports of executions in every region,” Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty’s Director of Global Issues, told CNN.
Amnesty’s report did not include data on executions carried out in China, where information on the death penalty is regarded as a state secret. Belarus and Vietnam, too, did not release data on death penalty cases. While figures are not available, Amnesty estimates that China also executes thousands of prisoners each year, more than the rest of the world combined.
Amnesty estimated that at least 19,094 people were believed to be on death row at the end of 2014. The report also highlighted the flaws in the judiciary processes that lead to many sentenced to death. “In the majority of countries where people were sentenced to death or executed, the death penalty was imposed after proceedings that did not meet international fair trial standards. In 2014, Amnesty International raised particular concerns in relation to court proceedings in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka,” the report noted.
The huge increase in the number of death sentences in 2014 came from two countries, Nigeria and Egypt, in which courts sometimes imposed mass sentences. In 2014, Nigeria condemned 659 people to death, compared to 141 in 2013. In Egypt, the same increase has been observed with 109 death sentences in 2013, to 509 in 2014.
Amnesty found positive developments worldwide, with most regions seeming to show reductions in the number of executions. Sub-Saharan Africa saw a 28% fall in reported cases, and executions recorded in the Middle East and North Africa were down 23% as compared to 2013.
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