The United States was one of the top five executioners in the world in 2013 according to a study recently released by Amnesty International. America is also the only country, in the western hemisphere, to still have the death penalty. Globally executions rose by close to 15 percent.
The report, released Wednesday, comes days after an Egyptian court ruled sentenced 529 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to death. The group, based in London, has termed the court’s decision as “grotesque.”
The report said that there were 778 court ordered executions spread across 22 countries.The numbers don’t reflect the thousands suspected of being executed in China. The number of inmates housed in the country’s prisons, as well as the number of executions, are a state secret.
The report went on to list Iran and Iraq as being a partial reason for the increase.Saudi Arabia also saw an increase in executions. Iran was reported has having ordered 369 people, while sources said the actual total was 335 higher. Iraq executed 169 persons. The number of executions in Syria and Egypt could not be confirmed because of the chaos currently sweeping those countries.
Amnesty International makes no attempt to hide its position on the death penalty. Calling the death penalty the ultimate cruel punishment, Amnesty International continually has representatives in court, as often as possible, when a death penalty case is being heard. Amnesty International has criticized the decision in Egypt calling the number of death sentences handed down at once a record.
According to the report, there are more than 22,000 people on death row globally. The most recent count, in December 2013, showed that there were a total of 1,925 people sentenced to death in 57 countries; an increase from 2012.
Comparatively speaking, there are few countries who have the death penalty, about one in 10 actually cary out the ultimate punishment while 140 counties are against the death penalty.The past several years show a downward trend in death penalty cases which reflects a general feeling that countries are working to end the sentence of death. Except for China, 80 percent of all known executions globally in 2013 were conducted in three countries: Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
The total number of people put to death in the US was 39 from 43 in 2012. Over 40 percent of executions in America were carried out by Texas.
The rights group was surprised by four countries that started executions again after not performing any for over a year. Indonesia, Kuwait, Nigeria and Vietnam all previously had an informal moratorium on the penalty prior to 2013.
Coerced confessions were also a target of the report. A majority of countries that sentenced people to death were not able to show they met internationally agreed-upon fair trial standards.
The crimes resulting in the death penalty included adultery in Saudi Arabia, blasphemy in Pakistan, financial crimes in China and Vietnam and possessing pornography in Korea. In five countries, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and South Sudan death row inmates were not informed of the date of their execution, finding out only moments before the sentence was to be carried out. Botswana, India and Nigeria failed to return the bodies of executed prisons to their families for burying.
The authors of the report say that although there has been a 15 percent increase in executions, overall they are seeing a downward trend which leads them to believe more countries are leaning towards abolition of the ultimate punishment.
By Jerry Nelson