Amnesty International Report: ‘Record’ Executions in 2015: Worst Year in Decades Says Human Rights Watchdog

The year 2015 witnessed a record number of documented executions in nearly 30 years according to human rights watchdog Amnesty International. The figures revealed that more than 1600 state-sanctioned executions were carried out in the year, demonstrating a troubling surge in executions by nearly 50 percent compared to 2014. In a recent report, it disclosed that more than 80 percent of these executions were recorded in three countries alone; namely Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

Amnesty International painstakingly documents executions, death sentences, commutations, and exonerations based upon largely credible statistics obtained from sources around the world. According to the report, many world countries have persisted with use of the death penalty as a state-sanctioned measure, particularly with regard to terrorism-related offences. Some countries have also reportedly incorporated amendments to existing body of legislations to endorse it as a permissible ruling.

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The report has singled out the top three countries where the most soaring number of state-sanctioned executions have been reported last year. By far, the largest numbers have been documented in Iran, with over 400 official executions in the country, followed by Pakistan, which carried out 326 executions last year. Nearly 160 executions were carried out in Saudi Arabia in the same year. Although the United States carried out 28 executions in the same period, reportedly the lowest number since 1991, it remains the only country in the Americas to have continued exercising capital punishment. While official figures were largely unavailable for China, the human rights group suspects the numbers could be astoundingly high.

According to Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s Secretary General, the statistics paint a very disturbing picture.

“2015 was a year of extremes. We saw some very disquieting developments but also developments that give cause for hope. Not for the last 25 years have so many people been put to death by states around the world. Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have all put people to death at unprecedented levels, often after grossly unfair trials. Whatever the short-term setbacks, the long-term trend is still clear. The world is moving away from the death penalty. The countries that still execute need to realize that they are on the wrong side of history.”

Although capital punishment was dispensed to as many as 2,000 convicts in over 60 different countries in 2015, statistically the number of documented death-sentences had been low compared to the preceding year, when nearly 2,500 death sentences were recorded. Despite a significantly waning tolerance for the practice, capital punishment is still actively prescribed in several other countries namely Brunei, Ghana, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Singapore, and Thailand among others.

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Amnesty reports cover the “judicial” use of the death penalty in countries from January to December every year, with data extracted from a variety of sources; namely official reports, families of those sentenced, legal representatives, news reports, and civil society organizations. The group condemns the practice and deems it inconsistent with rights protections. Its stance on capital punishment has been explicitly declared on several of its platforms.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases, regardless of the characteristics of the offender, the crime or the method of execution. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty on the grounds that it is a violation of the right to life and the right not to be subject to cruel or inhumane treatment or punishment. These rights are fundamental rights enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As of now, up to 102 countries have successfully abolished the death penalty for all punishable offenses. However, at least 58 countries still subscribe to the use of capital punishment for ordinary crimes, with some continuing to exercise it for drug-related offenses. Most countries in the west, however, hold a moral stance against the practice and its abolition is a key object of the European Union’s human rights policy.

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