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Amnesty International: Executions Increased Dramatically Last Year

Amnesty International launched its annual report on the death penalty during the U.N. Human Rights Commission's proceedings in Geneva. It says the figures for China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States accounted for 90 per cent of all known executions last year.

Amnesty International says executions around the world doubled last year from the previous year with over 3,048 people executed in 31 countries. It says it is impossible to provide a complete total because many countries deliberately keep the number of executions secret.

It says the figure has risen dramatically mainly because China has used the death penalty as part of its crackdown on crime.

Amnesty spokeswoman Judit Arenas says China executed 1,781 people between April and July of last year as part of its national "strike hard" campaign against crime. The figure is more than the total number of people executed in the rest of the world during the past three years.

According to Ms. Arenas, China executed a total of 2,468 people in 2001. "The majority of executions in China do take place in mass sentencing rallies, so they largely tend to be connected with drug-related offenses or corruption offenses as opposed to violent crimes," she said.

Ms. Arenas added that Iran follows China with at least 139 executions. Saudi Arabia and the United States follow Iran with 79 and 66 executions respectively.

Ms. Arenas says Amnesty International wants the U.N. Human Rights Commission to vote against the use of the death penalty and urge an immediate worldwide moratorium on executions.

"Despite a huge amount of public pressure, despite clear legal rulings and clear legal decisions, that the death penalty should not be applied," she explained. "Despite evidence to prove that it is not a deterrent, despite evidence that innocent people are actually executed, certain government pursue this."

Each year, the commission considers whether to stop the use of the death penalty, but it has to no power to force countries to comply.