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Death sentences 'running at record levels' although execution toll falls

Death sentences 'running at record levels' although execution toll falls

For the 8th consecutive year, the United States of America was the only country to carry out executions in the Americas region with 20 people executed in 2016 (eight fewer than in 2015). China's official death penalty figures are a state secret, but Amnesty said it continues to execute thousands of people every year.

Other countries making up the world's top five executioners in 2016 were Iran (at least 567), Saudi Arabia (at least 154), Iraq (at least 88) and Pakistan (at least 87). Last year, the United States executed 20 people, the lowest number since 2006 and second-lowest since 1991, according to a new study by worldwide rights group Amnesty global.

Human rights group Dui Hua estimates China conducted about 2,000 executions past year, down from 6,500 a decade ago. The fact that "there are so many farmers and migrant workers being sentenced to death would probably indicate that, as in line with the experience of other countries, relatively poorer people are more likely to be subjected to the death penalty, or are perhaps less able to afford adequate and effective legal representation", said Nee.

Shamini also called on the Government to be more transparent in the use of the death penalty. Sri Lanka had 79 death sentences past year.

Amnesty has described the country's use of the death penalty as "grotesque" and "horrifying".

These "executions take place within the context of a judicial system that is not independent from the authority of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and therefore subject to direct political interference", it said.

Amnesty has specified that the figures may be higher in reality because of constraint with regard to information on death sentences available from a few countries. "There is strong public support for the death penalty", Ugwu said. Excluding China only four countries account for almost 87% of global executions: Iran, (567), Saudi Arabia, (154), Iraq, (88), and Pakistan, (87).

"[Until there's transparency] it's really hard to know how to reform, whether or not [reforms are] effective... the public doesn't have the information they need to have an informed public debate about the death penalty".

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The biggest of the remaining executioners are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.

The Chinese government has been following a policy of "killing fewer, killing cautiously" (少杀慎杀) for a decade, and are keen to present an image to the world of at least attempting to reduce the number of executions, the report said.

The estimates contradict official state figures, which put the number of executions at 85 between 2014 and 2016. Amnesty International reports that annual executions there likely number in the low thousands.

For the first time since 2006, the U.S. did not feature among the world's top five countries, due partly to litigation and challenges in sourcing chemicals used in lethal injection procedures.

But secrecy involving the executions remains an issue despite efforts at reform, according to Amnesty.

Executions in Iran fell by more than 40 percent compared to 2015 - especially significant because Iran accounted for more than half of all known executions previous year. Out of the 856 executions that were recorded in 2016, Iran alone carried out 66% of them.

China guards data relating to the death penalty like a state secret.

Amnesty suggests that China's continued lack of transparency on prisoner executions is because it still harvests prisoner's organs.


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