Amnesty International’s latest annual report has found that fewer executions were carried out around the world in 2017 than the year prior. The number of people sentenced to death also went down.
Last year Amnesty International recorded 993 executions. Although that number is high, in 2016 the human rights organization registered 1,032 more.
The London-based human rights watchdog said in its latest report – Death Sentences And Executions 2017 – that positive measures, such as legal amendments in Iran to limit capital punishment for drug-related crimes, and notable reductions in the number of death sentences worldwide have contributed to a 4 percent drop in executions compared to the previous year.
More than half of recorded executions — 507 — were carried out in Iran, followed by Saudi Arabia, with 146, Iraq, with 125, and Pakistan, with 60 confirmed executions.
However, the number does not include thousands of executions carried out by China, which remains by far the world’s top executioner but does not disclose data on executions and treats such information as a state secret.
Both Iran and Pakistan saw a decline in the number of executions compared to the previous year – some 10 percent in Iran and more than 30 percent in Pakistan.
The report said a record-high number of people — at least 7,000 — remained on death row in Pakistan, almost 5,000 in Punjab Province alone.
In Afghanistan, five people were put to death by hanging, the report said, in what appeared to be a hasty response to a growing number of terrorist attacks.
In the majority of countries where people were sentenced to death or executed, the death penalty was imposed after proceedings that did not meet international fair trial standards. Among the countries cited were Iran, Pakistan, Belarus, Iraq, and China.
Military courts sentenced a high number of civilians to death in Pakistan, the report noted.
In Iran and Iraq, the report says, “confessions” of guilt reportedly obtained through torture were broadcast on television before the trial took place, in violation of the presumption of innocence.
Amnesty also noted that people with mental or intellectual disabilities were put to death or remained under death sentence in Pakistan and the United States.
The sole country in Europe and Central Asia to carry out the death penalty remained Belarus, where two people convicted for rape and murder, Siarhei Vostrykau and Kiryl Kazachok, were executed by shooting in 2017. The two were put to death in secret, in May and October, the report says.
Russia, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan continued to observe moratoriums on executions, although in Kazakhstan one man remained under sentence of death after being convicted and sentenced in 2016 for terrorism.
In Russia, senior legislator Vasily Piskaryov and the Kremlin-backed head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, publicly called on two separate occasions last year for the reintroduction of the death penalty. But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said that Russia’s moratorium on the use of the death penalty will not be suspended, the report said.
Among the positive developments, the report highlights the progress in sub-Saharan Africa, where Guinea became the 20th state of the region to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.
Besides Guinea, Mongolia also scrapped the death penalty for all crimes, taking the total number of abolitionist countries to 106 in 2017.