RFL/RE – Last year saw a “worrying rise” in global executions in 2021 amid an easing in pandemic restrictions, Amnesty International has said, with Iran recording its highest number of state-sanctioned killings since 2017.
The global number of executions saw a 20 percent increase over 2020, with Iran accounting for most of the rise.
The global totals do not include executions in China, which Amnesty believes to be in the thousands, North Korea, and Vietnam.
Out of the total of 579 executions carried out across 18 countries last year, Iran executed at least 314 people, up from 246 in 2020 and the highest total in four years, Amnesty said in its Death Sentences And Executions 2021 Report.
The rights watchdog said the higher number was due to the increase in drug-related executions in Iran.
“Iran maintains a mandatory death penalty for possession of certain types and quantities of drugs — with the number of executions recorded for drug-related offenses rising more than five-fold to 132 in 2021 from 23 the previous year,” the report said.
It also highlighted the rise in the number of women executed, which went up from nine to 14 year-to-year.
“The Iranian authorities continued their abhorrent assault on children’s rights by executing three people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime, contrary to their obligations under international law,” the report said.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, more than doubled the number of executed people last year. Amnesty also mentions that Saudi Arabia this year stepped up the practice, with the execution of 81 people in just one day in March.
“After the drop in their execution totals in 2020, Iran and Saudi Arabia once again ramped up their use of the death penalty last year, including by shamelessly violating prohibitions put in place under international human rights law,” Amnesty’s Agnes Callamard said.
“Their appetite for putting the executioner to work has also shown no sign of abating in the early months of 2022,” Callamard added.
Myanmar, which has been under martial law, sentenced to death some 90 people, according to available figures.
At least 2,052 death sentences were handed down last year in 56 countries. Large increases in the number of death sentences were recorded in Bangladesh, India, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, and Pakistan.
On a positive note, Amnesty highlighted Kazakhstan’s abolishing of capital punishment.
“In December, Kazakhstan adopted legislation to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, which came into effect in January 2022,” the report noted.
“The minority of countries that still retain the death penalty are on notice: a world without state-sanctioned killing is not only imaginable, it is within reach and we will continue to fight for it,” Callamard said.
“It is high time the ultimate cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment is consigned to the history books,” she added.