Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Amnesty death penalty report: The secret China won’t share with the world

Source: (6 April 2016)

Asian nations are continuing to put thousands of people to their deaths every year.

Yet while the rest of the world is abolishing the death penalty, China and North Korea refuse to reveal how many people it executes each year.

China claims its figures are a state secret while North Korea remains uncooperative with human rights organisations.

Information surrounding its figures remain so tight that the world can only sit back and guess how many people they put to death every year.

Once again Asian powerhouse China has been named as the world’s biggest executioner in Amnesty International’s Death Sentences and Executions 2015 report.

In releasing the annual report this morning, the human rights group said it was impossible to obtain an exact figure on the number of people China has executed, but it is believed the figure is in the thousands, and is more than all the other countries in the world combined.

Amnesty International Australia spokesman Rose Kulak said the group obtained a rough figure based on non-government agencies, families who’ve had bodies returned to them and activists on the ground.

Ms Kulak, Individuals at Risk Program Coordinator at Amnesty, told said the main issue at hand was China’s lack of transparency.

“There is close to 50 crimes that people can get executed for,” she said.

“These crimes include things like embezzlement which in Australia would amount to jail time.”

China was also named as the world’s top executioner in 2014, with Amnesty estimating it was at least 1000 — a conservative figure, and one it believes is much higher.

However this year’s report did note, there are indications that the number of executions has decreased since the Supreme People’s Court began reviewing the implementation of the death penalty in 2007.


China was not the only nation in the spotlight.

The rogue nation of North Korea was also criticised for its lack of transparency and refusal to co-operate with human rights organisations, or release figures surrounding its execution rates.

Amnesty said it continued to receive reports, which it could not independently verify, indicating that executions were carried out and death sentences imposed for a wide range of alleged offences including questioning the leader’s policies.

However, according to media reports, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has executed 70 officials since taking power in late 2011 in a “reign of terror” that far exceeds the bloodshed of his father.

In 2013, Kim executed his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, for alleged treason. Jang was married to Kim Jong-il’s sister and was once considered the second most powerful man in North Korea.

More recently, South Korean media outlet Yonhap News agency reported 15 high-ranking officials were executed in North Korea prior to April.

Last August, it also reported Vice Premier Choe Yong-gon and Defence Minister Hyon Yong-cool had been executed in May by shooting.

Ms Kulak said it was also a concern that Pakistan, another country in our region, has resumed executions on a massive scale, with 320 killed last year alone.

She said the government’s reasoning of a terror crackdown on militants simply wasn’t justified.


The number of executions recorded in Iran and Saudi Arabia have increased by 31 per cent and 76 per cent respectively, and executions in Pakistan were the highest Amnesty International has ever recorded in that country, the report found.

Pakistan recorded a massive rise in executions after lifting a moratorium on civilian executions in December 2014.

More than 320 people were put to death in 2015, the highest number Amnesty International has ever recorded for Pakistan.

Iran put at least 977 people to death in 2015, compared to at least 743 the year before — the vast majority for drug-related crimes.

In Saudi Arabia, executions rose by a whopping 76 per cent compared to 2014’s figures, with at least 158 people being executed last year.

According to Amnesty, most were beheaded, but authorities also used firing squads and sometimes displayed executed bodies in public.

The United States came in next for mention.

For the seventh consecutive year, the US was the only country to execute across the Americas, carrying out 28 executions, the lowest number since 1991 and seven less than the year before.


The following methods of executions were used across the globe.

Beheading, Saudi Arabia; hanging, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, South Sudan, Sudan; lethal injection China, USA, Vietnam as well as firing squad.


In the report, Amnesty noted a dramatic global rise in the number of executions recorded last year which saw more people put to death than at any point in the last 25 years.

The surge was largely fuelled by three countries including Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which accounted for almost 90 per cent of all recorded executions.

Excluding China, at least 1634 people were executed in 2015, 573 more than recorded the year before.

According to the report this represents a rise of more than 50 per cent and the highest number Amnesty International has recorded since 1989.

Amnesty International’s Secretary-general Salil Shetty said the rise in executions was profoundly disturbing.

“Not for the last 25 years have so many people been put to death by states around the world,” he said.

“In 2015 governments continued relentlessly to deprive people of their lives on the false premise that the death penalty would make us safer.

“Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have all put people to death at unprecedented levels, often after grossly unfair trials. This slaughter must end.”

According to Amnesty, in almost all regions of the world, the death penalty continued to be used as a “tool by governments to respond to real or perceived threats to state security and public safety posed by terrorism, crime or political instability.”

This was despite the lack of evidence that the death penalty is any more of a deterrent to violent crime than a term of imprisonment.

Mr Shetty said the major upside of the report was that for the first time ever, the majority of the world’s countries were abolitionist for all crimes after four more countries abolished the death penalty last year.

Congo (Republic of), Fiji, Madagascar and Suriname repealed the death penalty during the year.

“2015 was a year of extremes. We saw some very disquieting developments but also developments that give cause for hope. Four countries completely abolished the death penalty, meaning the majority of the world has now banned this most horrendous of punishments,” Mr Shetty said.

The report found five of the 53 member states of the Commonwealth were known to have carried out executions including Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Singapore.

Japan and the US were the only countries in the G8 to carry out executions with 28 and three respectively.

At least 20,292 people were under sentence of death worldwide at the end of 2015.


According to the report, several nations, including China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, put people to death for crimes.

This included for economic crimes such as corruption (China, North Korea and Vietnam); armed robbery (Saudi Arabia); adultery (Maldives, Saudi Arabia); aggravated circumstances of rape (India), rape (Afghanistan, Jordan, Pakistan); apostasy (Saudi Arabia); kidnapping (Iraq); kidnapping and rape (Saudi Arabia); insulting the prophet of Islam (Iran).

Amnesty said these did meet the international legal standards of “most serious” to which the use of the death penalty must be restricted under international law.

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