Politics

Executions decline worldwide but increase in Middle East, AI reports

Cairo, Apr 21 (efe-epa).- The number of executions declined worldwide by five per cent in 2019 with a record number carried out in Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International said Tuesday.

In its annual global review of the death penalty, AI recorded 657 executions in 20 countries last year, the lowest figure in a decade but with no concrete numbers from China, the world’s top executor.

The human rights group acquired information about executions through official figures, judgments and testimonies from the families and representatives of individuals sentenced to death.

It warned the figures are often misrepresented as many countries, such as China, North Korea, and Vietnam, “hide the full extent of their use of the death penalty”.

Iran, the world’s second-most prolific user of the death penalty, executed 251 people in 2019, two less than the year before, on charges of murder or drug trafficking.

The report said that “recorded executions reduced slightly in Iran and remained at an historical low because of the implementation of amendments in 2017 to the country’s anti-narcotics law”.

This legislation raised the limit on the quantity of drugs that would lead to a death sentence and allowed those convicted of drug trafficking to appeal a capital punishment sentence.

Amnesty warned that “a lack of transparency by several countries hindered Amnesty International’s full assessment of the global use of the death penalty”.

There was a 16 per cent increase in the number of executions in the Middle East and North Africa, from 501 in 2018 to 579, mainly due to an increase in the figures from Iraq, 92 per cent more than 2018, and Saudi Arabia, 23 per cent.

Saudi Arabia ranked third worldwide with 184 executions compared to 149 in 2018, followed by Iraq with at least 100 cases.

AI researcher Clare Algar said: “Saudi Arabia’s growing use of the death penalty, including as a weapon against political dissidents, is an alarming development.

“Also shocking was the massive jump in executions in Iraq, which nearly doubled in just one year.”

Egypt was fifth in the global rankings, while Yemen and South Sudan also executed more people in 2019 than in the previous year.

There were 707 recorded death sentences in the region in 2019, a drop of 40 per cent compared to 2018 when there were 1,170, according to the report.

“The drop in numbers was a result of a significant decrease in recorded death sentences in Egypt (from 717 in 2018 to 435 in 2019) and Iraq (from 271 in 2018 to 87 in 2019),” the study said.

“Death sentences were recorded in all the countries in the region except in Israel and Libya.”

For the first time in a decade, Afghanistan did not execute anyone.

The death penalty continued to be used in Taiwan, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Malaysia and the Gambia. EFE-EPA

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