UDespite the corona pandemic, at least 18 countries continued to carry out the death penalty in the past year. At least 483 people were executed, Amnesty International said on Wednesday. This means that the number of executions has dropped to its lowest level in ten years. But it is still “alarmingly” high. In some countries even more people were executed than in previous years.
“While saving lives was in the foreground in the pandemic around the globe, countries like Egypt have even increased the number of executions,” said Markus N. Beeko, Secretary General of Amnesty International in Germany. “Executing people in the midst of a global health crisis underscores the absurdity of the death penalty.”
Even under normal circumstances, it is very difficult to take legal action against an execution, said Beeko. “In the pandemic, there were massive difficulties in meeting lawyers or filing appeals for clemency.”
Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia
According to the Amnesty report, the four countries Iran (246), Egypt (107), Iraq (45) and Saudi Arabia (27) were responsible for 88 percent of all known executions. However, China is not included in these figures. Amnesty International claims that thousands of death sentences are passed and carried out in the People’s Republic every year. There are no official figures.
For the first time in 17 years, executions were carried out at the federal level in the United States last year. Under the then President Donald Trump, these were resumed in July and ten men were executed in a period of just six months.
The human rights organization pointed out that three times as many people were executed in Egypt as in the previous year. At least 23 of them were sentenced to death in connection with political violence – “in court proceedings that by no means met international minimum standards for fair trials”.
Some pandemic suspension of executions
The 483 executions recorded worldwide were 26 percent fewer than in 2019. The decrease was due to the fact that some countries carried out fewer executions, mainly Saudi Arabia and Iraq, Amnesty said. In 2020, in contrast to 2019, there were no executions in Bahrain, Belarus, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore and Sudan.
Amnesty International also observed a pandemic-related suspension of executions in some countries. In 2020, the death penalty was abolished in the Republic of Chad and the US state of Colorado.
Currently, 108 countries are reported to have abolished the death penalty for all crimes; 144 countries have suspended the death penalty by law or in practice.
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