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Global pressure sees state executions fall by one third

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Amnesty publishes report detailing executions around the world

Executions around the world fell by more than a third last year compared to the previous year, according to Amnesty International.

There were some 1,032 executions in 23 countries in 2016 compared to 1,634 in 25 countries in 2015.

However, though the 37% year-on-year fall was welcomed by Amnesty, the organisation warned that the numbers remain historically high.

And 2016 also saw 3,117 people sentenced to death - the highest number of death sentences ever recorded in a single year by the organisation.

At least 18,848 people were known to be under a sentence of death worldwide at the end of 2016.

The figures - contained in a new 47-page report Death Sentences and Executions in 2016 - do not include China, where thousands are believed to have been executed last year in conditions of secrecy.

Nearly all information on the death penalty in China is considered a “state secret” by the authorities, and previously Amnesty has attempted to estimate China’s execution numbers based on incomplete data.

This year, however, Amnesty has instead published the results of an in-depth investigation showing how the Chinese authorities are deliberately obscuring the shocking scale of executions in the country despite repeated official claims that it was making progress towards judicial transparency.

Commenting on the figures, Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen voiced concern that the UK may be toning down its criticism of countries that use the death penalty as it pursues trade deals and entering into new security arrangements.

She said: "We fear that trade and security issues are trumping human rights, with UK officials damping down their objections to the death penalty when it comes to countries like Saudi Arabia or Bahrain.

“When, shockingly, Bahrain executed three men after deeply unfair trials recently, the Foreign Secretary could muster only the mildest of rebukes.

“At its best the UK does some very important work in encouraging countries to end capital punishment, but with death sentences running at record levels around the world now is not the time to go quiet on the issue.

“If governments in Beijing, Manama, Islamabad and Riyadh see there’s very little public outrage over executions, then they're going to think they’ve got a green light to carry on killing.”

Amnesty’s report shows that executions in 2016 took place as follows:
China (unknown but believed to be thousands)
Iran 567+
Saudi Arabia 154+
Iraq 88+
Pakistan 87+
Egypt 44+
USA 20
Somalia 14
Bangladesh 10
Malaysia 9
Afghanistan 6
Belarus 4+
Indonesia (4),
Singapore (4)
Japan 3,
Nigeria 3
Palestinian Authority 3
Sudan 2
Botswana 1
Taiwan 1