Monday, March 28, 2011

I Sentence You To Life, And All Its Horrors

Amnesty International today issued their annual report on the state of the death penalty worldwide, and they are overall showing a fairly sharp decline over the past year... as long as you exclude China. China is by far the biggest proponent of the death penalty worldwide, executing more people than the rest of the world combined, so much so that if you included China in the count, it would skew the reading.

So excluding China, 719 people were executed worldwide in 2009. In 2010, the number was 527. At least, as far as we know; some countries aren't totally forthcoming in releasing their statistics. China, meanwhile, has at least 2,000 by Amnesty International's count, with rumors of it being as high as 8,000.

You see now why China had to be excluded?

22 other countries were scored as having at least one execution in 2010. Iran had 252, North Korea 60, Yemen 53, the United States 46, Saudi Arabia 27, Libya 18, Syria 17, Bangladesh 9, Somalia 8, Sudan 6, Palestine 5, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea and Taiwan 4, Belarus and Japan 2, and Iraq,
Botswana, Malaysia and Bahrain 1. Most of those countries, though, might have higher counts beyond what was scored, and Vietnam and Singapore might have also carried out at least one. (The confirmed count adds up to 521. Amnesty misplaced six executions here somewhere.)

It must be noted that these are actual executions. Not death sentences. While death sentences are given out in the thousands- 2,024 given by 67 countries- often, they aren't carried out.

Belarus is probably under more scrutiny than any other, outside of China. They are the only country left in Europe that still executes, in defiance of pressure placed upon it by the EU, which will not start officially talking with Belarus until it, among other things, abolishes the practice.

Over the past decade, 31 countries have. Gabon is the most recent, the 139th overall, while Mongolia instituted a moratorium- not abolition, but a step in that direction. Here in the US, Illinois recently abolished the death penalty, the 16th state to do so. Texas accounted (PDF) for 17 of the 46 American executions; if it were a country, it'd be ranked 8th in 2010 executions. Ohio had 8, Alabama 5, Virginia, Oklahoma and Mississippi 3, Georgia 2, and Florida, Louisiana, Arizona, Utah and Washington 1. There would have been more save for the fact that almost all American executions are by lethal injection, and there was widespread difficulty in obtaining one of the drugs in the cocktail, sodium thiopental. Arizona had to get theirs from the United Kingdom. Texas, down from 24 executions in 2009, has also been dealing with fallout from the executions of inmates who have later been exonerated; as a result, they've been more deliberate in proceeding.

In China itself, last month they abolished the death penalty for 13 'economic' crimes, a move which Amnesty International derided as "legal housekeeping", as China rarely carried out the executions for those crimes anyway. Among the crimes: tax fraud, tomb robbing, fossil stealing, and the smuggling of cultural relics. The death penalty was also abolished for those over age 75. That still leaves 55 crimes that can get you killed in China.

Still a long way to go.

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