China again sentenced the most people to death in 2011, Amnesty said, adding that it is nearly impossible to tell how many people were executed in the country due to state-mandated suppression of death records. It said that thousands of people were executed in China, more than the rest of the world combined.
Amnesty, a London-based rights group that opposes the death penalty, said it “stopped publishing figures it collects from public sources in China as these are likely to grossly underestimate the true number.”
“Chinese authorities continued to shroud the country’s use of the death penalty in secrecy and impeded verification of their claims of a significant reduction in the use of capital punishment,” the organization’s report stated.
Furthermore, there were accounts that false confessions in trials that fail to meet international standards led to death sentences, Amnesty said.
“The accused were not presumed innocent, but had to prove it, and police often extracted confessions through torture or other ill-treatment,” it stated.
There was a markedly steep increase in the number of executions in the Middle East, particularly in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Yemen. These four countries accounted for 99 percent of recorded executions in the region, including North Africa, the rights group said.
Overall, 676 executions were carried out around the world in 2011, excluding those in China, marking an increase over 2010’s figures of 527 executions, the group’s report said. The increase was attributed mainly to Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
At least 360 people were sentenced to death in Iran, the rights group said, while stressing that there were numerous reports that say the Islamic Republic executed far more than it officially said. There was at least one person who was executed for religious apostasy, and in other cases, torture and the extraction of false confessions was commonplace.
“At least three people were executed in Iran for crimes that were committed when they were under 18 years of age,” said Amnesty, noting that child executions violate international law. Another four juvenile offenders were reportedly executed in the country.
North Korea, which, like China, does not publish its execution records, likely executed a large number of people, Amnesty said. Last year, around 200 officials were rounded in January up by security forces, with many feared dead.
“Public executions, including within political prison camps, are believed to have taken place throughout the year” in the communist nation, the report stated, noting that the rights group “believes that a high number of extra-judicial executions are taking place in the country.”
India did not mete out any executions in 2011, but sentenced 110 people to death during the year, bringing the number of people who have received a death sentence for the next several years to between 400 or 500, the rights organization said. In other Asia-Pacific countries, other than China, 800 death sentences were handed down last year.
The United States was ranked fifth in overall executions with 43 executions in 2011, taking place in 13 states. Amnesty noted that there were signs that the United States was moving away from the death penalty, as the number of overall executions have dropped significantly since 2001, while Illinois also abolished executions last year.