Amnesty: Alarming surge in death sentences globally

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International says Egypt and Nigeria account for steep rise in death sentences in 2014.

Brotherhood members on trial in Egypt
Egypt has been criticised for sentencing supporters of ousted leader Mohamed Morsi to death in mass trials [AP]

Human rights group, Amnesty International, has warned of an “alarming” rise in death sentences around the globe in 2014, with Egypt and Nigeria accounting for much of the increase.

The group, which launched its report on capital punishment on Wednesday, also criticised Pakistan for lifting its moratorium on the executions in the wake of the Peshawar school killings by Pakistani Taliban fighters in December.

“It’s a very worrying development in 2014 that there has been this increase in death sentences,” Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty’s director of global issues, told the AFP news agency at the launch of a report on capital punishment.

“The death penalty isn’t justice,” she said.

The report recorded 2,466 death sentences during the last year; a 28 percent increase from 2013.

The number of death sentences actually carried out went down by 22 percent to 607 however from the previous year, although Amnesty warned these numbers did not count executions in China where death sentences are kept secret.

“There is no evidence that the death penalty is any more of a deterrent to violent crime or terrorism than other forms of punishment,” Gaughran said.

China had the highest number of executions in the world, followed by Iran, which carried out 289, as well as at least 454 executions which Amnesty says are not acknowledged by the authorities.

Saudi Arabia carried out 90 executions, followed by Iraq which killed 61 people sentenced to death and the US, which executed 35.

Surge in Egypt and Nigeria

While the report notes an overall decrease in the number of death sentences handed out, it says a major exception was Egypt, where the number rose to 509 from 109 in 2013.

“This included mass death sentences against 37 people in April and 183 people in June following unfair mass trials,” Amnesty said.

Since the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, at least 1,400 of his supporters have been killed in a heavy crackdown against critics of new president and former military chief, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Death sentences in Nigeria also shot up to 659 in 2014 from 141 in 2013, mainly linked to the Boko Haram rebellion in the country’s north.

The overall positive trend was for fewer countries to use capital punishment, said Amnesty, which has been campaigning against the death penalty for nearly 40 years.

“The few countries that still execute need to take a serious look in the mirror and ask themselves if they want to continue to violate the right to life,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s secretary general.

Amnesty also found that around the world there were 113 exonerations for death row prisoners in 2014.

“It’s obviously deeply disturbing because it underlines how frequently people who are innocent are sentenced to death,” Gaughran said.

Source: AFP