88% of executions recorded worldwide take place in the Middle East but many more are not recorded

China, number one far ahead, goes under the radar of statistics failing to publish the slightest figure. Behind China, Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia practice the death penalty without moderation, according to Amnesty International. It is also well known that Vietnam, North Korea and Syria follow this practice without moderation but it is practically impossible even to estimate its number."

Apr. 21 (DP.net).– Amnesty International recorded at least 657 executions in 20 countries worldwide in 2019. The total —one of the smallest since Amnesty began tracking executions in 1979— was a 5% decrease from the at least 690 executions recorded in 2018 and was down 60% from the 25-year-high total of 1,634 reported executions in 2015.

Those numbers exclude China which treats data on the death penalty as a state secret, but it is well known that even non-violent white-collar crimes such as embezzlement and fraud may also warrant an execution in China. Not counting the political cases. However, many more than 1,000 executions were estimated in that country in 2019, followed by Iran (251), Saudi Arabia (184), Iraq (100+), Egypt (32+) and USA (22). The + sign means that the numbers shown are only those confirmed but more were reported.

In certain countries of Southeast Asia, "information on imminent executions or executions that have already taken place is not publicly available," pointed out the UN Human Rights Office's representative for the region, Cynthia Veliko, in her statement of 26 October 2017. It is also known that in Iran and South Sudan minors have been executed, contravening the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Furthermore, Amnesty reported that at least 26,604 people were known to be on death rows around the world at the end of 2019, 38% more than the 19,336 people known to have been on global death rows at the end of 2018.

Nevertheless, there are encouraging news from Amnesty International's 2020 annual report on the death penalty in the world: overall, last year has recorded the biggest drop in the number of executions in ten years. A decrease of 26% compared to 2019 and 70% compared to 2015. Again, not counting very high but unconfirmed numbers from China, Vietnam, North Korea and Syria. The situation is distressing, however, in the Middle East where four countries, Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, account for 88% of the total number of executions recorded.

After China, therefore, it is Iran with at least 246 executions documented by Amnesty which ranks second in the world and first in the Middle East, totaling more than half of the cases in the region. Egypt follows with its 107 kills in 2020.

Last October was the 18th World Day Against the Death Penalty, and its theme campaigns for those on death row to obtain access to effective legal representation during arrest, detention, trial and post-trial, to ensure due process. But how far have the implementation of that Day and its celebrations helped the eventual elimination of the death penalty around the world?

Some countries have taken positive steps to improving their legislation on capital punishment. In September 2020, Kazakhstan signed the Second Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, making a commitment against capital punishment. Despite its poor record as the country with the second highest execution rate, Saudi Arabia have also made some small strides by a issuing a royal decree in April 2020, that aims for the abolition of the death penalty against juveniles. Similarly, the state of California extended the ban on capital punishment for intellectually disabled people.

But much more has to be done.  

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