World Moves Closer towards Abolition of the Death Penalty

Amnesty International released its annual report on the death penalty today. According to the group, the world moved even closer towards abolition of the death penalty in 2008.

In December, the United Nations General Assembly (UN GA) adopted by a large majority a second resolution calling for a moratorium with a view to abolish the death penalty. This resolution consolidates three decades of steady progress towards complete abolition of the death penalty. It was passed by a vote of 104 in favor and 54 against, with 29 abstentions.  The United States, along with countries such as China, Iran, North Korea and Saudi Arabia voted against.

See the vote of every country here: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2007/ga10678.doc.htm

On a positive note, in its overview of the use of the death penalty worldwide, Amnesty International noted that :

Europe and Central Asia is now virtually a death penalty free zone following the abolition of the death penalty in Uzbekistan for all crimes. There is just one country left – Belarus – that still carries out executions.

In the Americas, only one state – the United States of America (USA) – consistently executes. However, even the USA moved away from the death penalty in 2008. This year, the smallest number of executions since 1995 was reported in the USA.

Two states, Argentina and Uzbekistan abolished the death penalty.

The majority of countries now refrain from using the death penalty. Furthermore, in 2008 Amnesty International recorded only 25 out of 59 countries that retain the death penalty actually carried out executions. The practice of states indicates that there is increasing consolidation of majority international consensus that the death penalty cannot be reconciled with respect for human rights.

However, tough challenges remain. Countries in Asia carried out more executions in 2008 than the rest of the world put together.

The five countries with the highest rate of executions were:

  • China – at least 1,178 (the exact number is a state secret)
  • Iran – at least 346
  • Saudi Arabia – at least 102
  • Pakistan – at least 36
  • United States of America – 37

Some of the methods used to execute people in 2008 included beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection, shooting and stoning.

Read more and link to the full report here: http://www.amnesty.org/en/death-penalty

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