Death sentences touch an all-time high: Amnesty

Sentencing people to death is increasing across the globe with 2016 reporting the highest in recent times, including India doubling its numbers from the previous year, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

The report ‘Death sentences and Executions in 2016’ showed that 3,117 people were sentenced to death in 55 countries last year, in a significant increase of 1,988 in 2015. It exceeds the record-high total that the Amnesty reported in 2014 (2,466).

India reported 136 death sentences last year, a rise from 75 in 2015.

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Among India’s neighbours, Pakistan had the highest number of death sentences at 360 followed by Bangladesh at 245. Sri Lanka had 79 death sentences last year.

“Amnesty International recorded significantly higher numbers of death sentences imposed in Bangladesh, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Thailand and Zambia than in the previous year. However, decreases were particularly noticeable in Egypt and the US,” the report said.

While no execution was reported in India last year, at least 1,032 people were executed in 23 countries. In 2015, there were 1,634 executions in 25 countries worldwide. The number of executions could rise as Amnesty said it could not access data from China, which is a “state secret”.

Excluding China, 87% of all executions took place in just four countries – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.

For the first time since 2006, the US was not one of the five biggest executioners, falling to seventh behind Egypt. The 20 executions in the US was the lowest in the country since 1991, the report said.

At least 18,848 people were on death row at the end of 2016. Public executions were carried out in Iran and North Korea. Reports indicated that at least two people who were under 18 at the time of the crime for which they were sentenced to death were executed in 2016 in Iran, it said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 11, 2017)

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