CHINA and USA: Amnesty International Challenges China's Continued Secrecy in Death Penalty Executions

Press Release
March 30, 2010

CHINA and USA: Amnesty International Challenges China's Continued Secrecy in Death Penalty Executions

Amnesty International Press Release
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Amnesty International Challenges China's Continued Secrecy in Death Penalty Executions

Texas is first in executions in the U.S.; 7th in the world

Contact: AIUSA media office, 202-509-8188

(Washington DC) -- In a new report, Death Sentences and Executions in 2009, released today, Amnesty International challenged the Chinese authorities to reveal how many people they execute and sentence to death annually.

The new report reveals that 714 people were executed in 18 countries, and 2001 people were sentenced to death in 56 countries in 2009. However, it does not include the thousands of executions that were likely to have taken place in China, where information on the death penalty remains a state secret.

In a challenge to China's lack of transparency, Amnesty International has decided not to publish its own minimum figures for Chinese executions and death sentences in 2009. Estimates based on the publicly available information grossly under-represent the actual number the state killed or sentenced to death.

"The death penalty is cruel and degrading, and an affront to human dignity," said Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International's Interim Secretary General. "The Chinese authorities claim that fewer executions are taking place. If this is true, why won’t they tell the world how many people the state put to death?"

Amnesty International's research shows that nations that still carry out executions are the exception rather than the rule. In addition to China, the worst offending nations were Iran with at least 388 executions, Iraq with at least 120, Saudi Arabia with at least 69 and the United States with 52.

In the United States, Texas with 24 executions, is the worst offender. It actually ranks 7th in the world trailing only the rest of the United States, and the governments of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and China. Texas has already executed four men in 2010, and another, Franklin Alix, is scheduled to be put to death on the evening of March 30.

The past year saw capital punishment applied extensively to send political messages, to silence opponents or to promote political agendas in China, Iran and Sudan, according to Amnesty International's report.

In Iran, 112 executions were known to have taken place in the eight-week period between the presidential election on June 12 and the inauguration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a second term as President on
August 5.

The report addresses the discriminatory way the death penalty was applied in 2009, often after grossly unfair trials, and its disproportionate use against the poor, minorities and members of racial, ethnic and religious communities.

Yet the figures also show that the world continued to move towards abolition in 2009. The number of countries that have removed capital punishment entirely from their laws rose to 95 as Burundi and Togo abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

For the first year since Amnesty International began keeping records, no executions took place in Europe in 2009. Belarus is the only country in the region that continues to use the death penalty. Across the Americas, the United States was the only country to carry out executions. Yet even in the USA death sentences declined to their lowest levels since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s.

"Fewer countries than ever before are carrying out executions. As it did with slavery and apartheid, the world is rejecting this embarrassment to humanity," said Cordone. "We are moving closer to a death penalty free world, but until that day every execution must be opposed."

To request an embargoed copy of Amnesty International's report Death Sentences and Executions in 2009, please contact the AIUSA media office at 202-509-8194 or dcmedia2@aiusa.org.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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Read the Annual Global Death Penalty Statistics Report.