INTERNATIONAL: Amnesty International Reports Worldwide Drop in Executions

Amnesty International  recently reported that at least 1,252 people were executed in 24 countries and at least 3,347 people were sentenced to death in over 50 countries in 2007. Amnesty estimates that there are up to 27,500 people on death row worldwide. Their figures represent a drop in executions from 1,591 in 2006, particularly in China which went from over 1,000 executions in 2006 to 470 last year.  However, execution figures are considered a state secret in China and the actual number of executions may be higher.

Despite the overall downward trend, executions in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan all increased from 2006 to 2007. These countries, along with China and the U.S, carried out 88% of known executions in 2007. Currently, 135 countries (67% of the total number of countries) have either officially abolished capital punishment or have refrained from using it for at least 10 years. Albania, Rwanda and the Cook Islands, abolished the death penalty last year. In the U.S., New Jersey was the first state to legislatively abolish capital punishment since its reinstatement in 1976. The U.S. was fifth in the world in the number of people executed (42), though executions here dropped to their lowest number in 13 years.

Amnesty's report noted that in 2007 the United Nations General Assembly voted - by 104 to 54, with 29 abstentions - in support of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.  "The UN General Assembly took the historic decision to call on all countries around the world to stop executing people. That the resolution was adopted in December with such a clear majority shows the global abolition of the death penalty is possible," said Amnesty International.
(“Death Penalty: World trend down but secrecy surrounds China execution figures- new report,” Amnesty International, April 14, 2008). See International.