Global executions fell by 25 percent in 2003: Amnesty

Agence France Presse
April 6, 2004 Tuesday 9:17 AM Eastern Time

Global executions fell by 25 percent in 2003: Amnesty

GENEVA, April 6

The number of people executed in the world fell by 25 percent in 2003
while more than half the countries have stopped using the death
penalty, the advocacy group Amnesty International said Tuesday.

Four countries — China, Iran, the United States and Vietnam —
accounted for 84 percent of the 1,143 legally-sanctioned executions
known to have been carried out in 28 countries last year.

Nearly two-thirds (726) of the executions took place in China,
Amnesty said in its annual review on the use of the death penalty.

During 2002, 1,526 people were known to have been executed in 31
countries, spokeswoman Judit Arenas told journalists. The human
rights group is fiercely opposed to capital punishment.

At least 2,756 people were sentenced to death in 63 countries in
2003, also marking a sharp fall over the previous year, when the
human rights group counted 3,248 executions in 67 states.

The data is based on Amnesty’s own research, but does not account for
possible executions in secretive states such as North Korea, while
the true figure for some countries, including China, is thought to be
much higher.

Armenia, Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizistan, and Samoa, joined 112
other countries who have now formally abolished capital punishment or
have stopped using it for several years.

“This year’s figures show that the majority of countries follow an
abolitionist path, others choose to remain on the wrong side of the
justice divide,” Amnesty said in a statement.

China last year reportedly introduced a fleet of 18 mobile execution
buses in Yunnan province, where condemned people are given a lethal
injection immediately after they are sentenced by local courts.

“That has heightened our concern about the way that the death penalty
is applied in that country, where we believe that judicial review has
not been allowed given that the time between sentencing and execution
is only a few hours,” Arenas said.

Amnesty was also sharply critical of the United States, where 65
executions took place, some of them involving people who committed
crimes when they were still juveniles or people who were mentally