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Death Penalty Trends around the World

At-a-glance: around the

Demonstrators protest against the death penalty at the 5th World Congress against the Death Penalty in Madrid. (Getty)

Demonstrators protest against the at the 5th World Congress against the Death Penalty in Madrid. (Getty)

Last year 682 people were executed in 21 countries, but figures show there is a movement away from capital punishment globally. Here’s a closer look at the figures.

 Globally, there is a movement away from capital punishment, but there are pockets around the world where it is carried out. We take a look at where the death penalty is practised, how often and for what crime.

More than two-thirds of countries worldwide have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

But the latest annual data on global death penalty rates published by Amnesty International shows that 2012 saw a resumption of executions in Gambia, India, Japan and Pakistan. There has also been a sharp rise in reported executions in Iraq in 2012 compared to 2011.

Graphic: Trends over the last decade (source: Amnesty International)

THE NUMBER OF EXECUTIONS IN 2012

Amnesty International reports the number of people executed in 2012 rose by 2 to 682 executions in 21 countries compared to the previous year. But the number of people sentenced to death fell by 10 percent to 1,722 (in 58 countries) in 2012. In 2011, some 1,923 were sentenced to death in 63 countries.

But these figures represent a marked decrease from a decade ago. For example, 28 countries carried out executions in 2003.

The figures do not include the thousands of people who Amnesty International believes have been executed in China, where the number remains a state secret.

Graphic: Where executions were carried out in 2012

HIGHEST RATES

Year-on-year, the same countries appear in Amnesty International’s list of top eight countries with the highest number of executions. In 2012, the top eight included:

1. China keeps secret the number of executions carried out. Amnesty International says reliable media sources and human rights groups estimate the number of executions to be in the thousands – more executions than the rest of the world put together. The death penalty has been used for drug-related offences and economic crimes.

2. Iran has the second-highest level of executions worldwide in 2012, mostly for drug-related crimes. Four people were executed in June 2012 for the “offence” of “enmity against God and corruption on Earth”. Capital punishment has been used for crimes including “adultery”, “sodomy” and the religious offence of “apostasy”.

3. Iraq saw the number of executions almost double from the previous year.

4. Saudi Arabia often carries out executions by public beheading. Defendants are rarely allowed formal representation by a lawyer and can be held in detention for weeks at a time based on “confessions” obtained under duress. One accused man was executed by a practice known as crucifixion, where the beheaded body is publicly displayed. Crimes that are punishable by death include “sorcery” and forms of “aggravated” robbery.

Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia account for three quarters of confirmed executions in 2012.

5. USA saw Connecticut become the 17th abolitionist state in the country. Concerns about the discriminatory application of the death penalty and the possibility of wrongful convictions have led to a series of abolitions in individual states.

6. Yemen saw two people executed for crimes committed when they were reportedly under 18.

7. North Korea carries out executions in public as well as in secret. Death sentences have been known to be handed down for crimes which do not carry the death penalty under North Korean law.

8. Sudan is said to use the death penalty as a tool against real or perceived opposition activists.

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