Number of Executions Worldwide Falls by More than 25 Percent, Reports Amnesty International
United States Still Among Top Six Executing Countries; Iraq Enters List at Number Four
WASHINGTON - April 27 - The number of executions worldwide fell from 2,148 in 2005 to 1,591 in 2006, a drop of more than 25 percent, Amnesty International (AI) revealed today in its annual report on global death penalty statistics.
In 2006, 91 percent of all known executions took place in China, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and the United States. AI recorded more than 1,000 executions in China in 2006, but figures on the use of the death penalty are a state secret in China and the true number is believed to be as high as 8,000. Iran executed at least 177 people, Pakistan at least 82, Iraq and Sudan each at least 65, and the United States 53.
In 1977, only 16 countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes. In 2006, the Philippines became the latest country to join the 99 that have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Many more, including South Korea, stand on the brink of abolition.
In Africa, only six countries carried out executions in 2006. Belarus is the only country that continues to use the death penalty in Europe. The United States is the only country in the Americas to have carried out any executions since 2003.
"2006 gave us cause to be optimistic about the prospect ultimately of global abolition," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "Around the world and here at home, there have been increasingly vocal calls to end the death penalty, and lawmakers are finally listening.
“However, it should be a continuing source of national shame that the United States remains on the list of the world's top executing countries. Amnesty International USA is doing its utmost to ensure that the United States is taken off the list of nations that retain the death penalty.”
In 2006, New Jersey became the first state to institute a legislatively mandated moratorium on executions. Earlier this year, a New Jersey commission studying the administration of the death penalty recommended abolition. Several states have placed a hold on executions because of legal challenges and concerns relating to the lethal injection process. In the 2007 session, there were serious attempts at abolition in five state legislatures.
“Lawmakers are finally realizing that the death penalty is an ineffective crime prevention measure that drains resources away from the community and does little to deter violent crime,” said Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, director of Amnesty International USA's Program to Abolish the Death Penalty. “There is also a growing awareness of the racial bias, arbitrariness, and fallibility associated with the administration of the death penalty and many are seriously questioning the wisdom of retaining such a system.”
AI launched the 2007 edition of its annual global death penalty statistics at a press conference in Rome on Friday, April 27. The panel at the event included AI Secretary General Irene Khan.