Significant Increase in Death Sentences in India; China World’s Biggest Executioner: Amnesty

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ABDUL BARI MASOUD | Clarion India

New Delhi: China was once again the world’s leading executioner while India witnessed a significant increase in the number of death sentences imposed whereas Pakistan recorded a significant decrease in the implementation of death sentences. This was revealed in Amnesty International’s annual report on Death Penalty released today world-wide.

The 54-page report titled as “Amnesty International Global Report on Death Sentences and Executions” highlights that the judicial use of the death penalty for the period January to December 2016 which recorded a 37% decrease in the number of executions carried out globally in 2016 as against the previous year and at least 1,032 people were executed − 602 fewer than in 2015.

However, in case of India, there was a significant increase in the number of death sentences imposed.  India recorded a total of 136 death sentences imposed in 2016, significantly higher than the previous year’s whereas a significant decrease in the implementation of death sentences was recorded in Pakistan, by 73%.

According to report, India is among few countries that imposed death penalty for drug related offences. Against international standards, India amended its laws to introduce death penalty for hijacking when it results into death and over 400 people in India were under sentence of death at the end of 2016. However, in 2016, India did not execute any convicts on death row.

The report also highlights that death penalty mostly awarded to Dalits and religious minorities in India that shows a clear bias in the judicial execution. It quoted a report of National Law University, Delhi.

“In May, the National Law University, Delhi, published an extensive study showing that most prisoners on death row were from economically vulnerable and socially disadvantaged groups”.

The report also contains substantial information on Pakistan with respect to Death Sentences and Executions. Some of the highlights are:

  • Over 87 executions were recorded in Pakistan in 2016
  • Over 360 death sentences were recorded in Pakistan in 2016
  • Military courts sentenced civilians to death in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt and Pakistan
  • Over 6000 people are known to be under sentence of Death at the end of 2016 in Pakistan
  • Pakistan is among the World’s top 5 executioners

Amnesty International recorded executions in 23 countries, two fewer than in 2015. Belarus and authorities within the State of Palestine resumed executions in 2016 after a year’s hiatus, while Botswana and Nigeria carried out their first executions since 2013.

On Bangladesh, where the present regime of Hasina Wajid has been targeting political opponents in the name of war crimes, the Amnesty says in the trial of Jamaat Islami Bangladesh leaders Motiur Rahman Nizami and Mir Quasem Ali, the Tribunal did not follow fair standards.   “There were 10 executions in Bangladesh during the year. Eight of those executed had been convicted of murder, and two – Motiur Rahman Nizami and Mir Quasem Ali − had been convicted and sentenced to death by the International Crimes Tribunal (Bangladesh) set up to investigate mass scale human rights violations committed during Bangladesh’s 1971 War of Independence. The proceedings of the Tribunal violated international fair trial standards”.

On the Middle East, the Amnesty report states that the use of the death penalty in the region decreased in 2016. The number of executions recorded by Amnesty International fell by 28%, from 1,196 in 2015 to 856 in 2016. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq were the top three executing countries in the region. Iran executed at least 567 people – 66% of all confirmed executions in the region. Saudi Arabia executed at least 154 people and Iraq executed at least 88 people. The three countries were responsible for 95% of all the executions recorded in the region in 2016.

The report describes China as the world’s biggest executioner where figures remained classified as state secret. A new in-depth investigation by Amnesty International shows that the Chinese authorities enforce an elaborate secrecy system to obscure the shocking scale of executions in the country, despite repeated claims it is making progress towards judicial transparency.

“China’s horrifying use of the death penalty remains one of the country’s deadly secrets, as the authorities continue to execute thousands of people each year.”

“China wants to be a leader on the world stage, but when it comes to the death penalty it is leading in the worst possible way – executing more people annually than any other country in the world,” said Salil Shetty.

On China’s transparency claims, the Amnesty says it is “misleading”.

“The Chinese government uses partial disclosures and unverifiable assertions to claim progress in reducing the number of executions yet at the same time maintains near absolute secrecy. This is deliberately misleading.” said Salil Shetty.

The important findings of the report are:

  • 1,032 executions worldwide in 2016, down 37% from 2015 (1,634)
  • Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan join China as world’s top five executioners
  • USA not among top five for first time since 2006, with lowest number of executions since 1991
  • China investigation discredits claims of openness
  • Viet Nam state killing spree revealed

Facts and figures of the Amnesty’s Global report are as below:

  • At least 1,032 people were executed in 23 countries in 2016. In 2015 Amnesty International recorded 1,634 executions in 25 countries worldwide – a historical spike unmatched since 1989.
  • Most executions took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan – in that order.
  • Excluding China, 87% of all executions took place in just four countries – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.
  • For the first time since 2006, the USA was not one of the five biggest executioners, falling to seventh behind Egypt. The 20 executions in the USA were the lowest in the country since 1991.
  • During 2016, 23 countries, about one in eight of all countries worldwide, are known to have carried out executions.
  • 141 countries worldwide, more than two-thirds, are abolitionist in law or practice.
  • In 2016, two countries – Benin and Nauru– abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes. In total, 104 countries have done so – a majority of the world’s states. Only 64 countries were fully abolitionist in 1997.
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Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.

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