“Worrying increase” in death sentences in 2021

In its annual report, which came out on Tuesday, Amnesty International said it was worried about the rise of the death penalty around the world last year.

Amnesty International said on Tuesday in its annual report that the loosening of restrictions related to Covid-19 will lead to a “worrying rise” in the number of death sentences around the world in 2021. It pointed to problems in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Burma. The London-based human rights group says it kept track of at least 579 executions in 18 countries in 2021. This is almost 20% more than the 483 executions it kept track of in 2020.

Even with this rise, the last two years have still had the least number of reported executions since 2010. Amnesty, on the other hand, says that its count does not include “the thousands of people who have been sentenced to death and put to death in China,” as well as in North Korea and Vietnam, because of restrictions on access to data.

More than 50 percent in Iran

Even if you don’t count these countries, more than half of all executions in the world in 2021 were in Iran. The Islamic Republic carried out 314 executions last year, which Amnesty says is the most since 2017. The NGO says that part of the reason for this rise in Iran is that there have been a lot more people put to death for drug crimes, which is against international law.

After a sharp drop in 2020, the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia doubled (to 65 executions) in 2021, and it will be even higher in 2022 after 81 people were executed in one day in March in this very conservative kingdom. “After a drop in executions in 2020, Iran and Saudi Arabia increased their use of the death penalty again last year, breaking international human rights law without shame,” said Agnès Callamard, the general secretary of Amnesty International, in a press release.

2000 sentences were given out

“While Covid-related restrictions that had long slowed down court proceedings have been lifted in many parts of the world, judges have handed down at least 2,052 death sentences in 56 countries. This is an increase of almost 40% compared to 2020, with significant increases in Bangladesh (at least 181), India (at least 144), and Pakistan (at least 129),” says Amnesty.

This group also brings up the case of Burma, where “an alarming increase in the use of the death penalty has been recorded under martial law” and civil cases are tried in military courts. “Nearly 90 people have been randomly sentenced to death there, and some of them have already been killed,” Amnesty said. “Many people think this is part of a campaign to punish opponents and journalists.”

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