Social Issues March 27, 2012
Amnesty International: Executions Surged Worldwide Last Year

According to a new Amnesty International report, fewer countries executed people last year, but those that did carry out judicial executions took more lives. Only 20 countries officially executed people in 2011, compared with 23 countries the year before. Despite the lower number of countries, however, at least 676 people were executed last year, compared to 527 in 2010.

Amnesty attributes the higher number of reported executions to a significant increase in judicial killings in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The total number does not include the "thousands of people who were believed to have been executed in China", however, since the Chinese government considers their execution policy to be a state secret. Amnesty also says it has received "credible reports" of secret executions in Iran, which could almost double the number of officially acknowledged executions.

The U.S. is the only G8 country to carry out executions last year. According to the report, however, "developments in 2011 continued to suggest that this country is also edging away from the use of the death penalty", with Illinois becoming the 16th state to refuse to execute prisoners, while Oregon's Governor John Kitzhaber announced that he would not allow any further executions during his time in office.

In general, the report highlights the difficulty of getting accurate information about judicial executions around the world. Amnesty points out that "official figures on the use of the death penalty in 2011 were available only in a small number of countries", and little or no accurate information could be gleaned from Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Malaysia, North Korea and Singapore.

As part of their 2012 campaign to abolish the death penalty around the world, Amnesty also released an animated film today telling the story of Mohammad Mostafaei, a lawyer who has saved "nearly 20" of the 40 young people he has defended from execution in Iran. It's narrated by actor Paul Bettany.

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