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May 28, 2017

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China, Iran still top in death penalty

UNITED NATIONS -- The People's Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Iran top the charts for executions according to a newly released report by Amnesty International. Iran accounted for 55 percent of all recorded death sentences according to Amnesty. Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Pakistan are tragically part of this gruesome tally as compiled by the international watchdog group.

Though Iran's 567 executions represented the world's second highest tally, the number fell from 977 judicially sanctioned executions in 2015. While about half of the executions are connected to drug-related and other criminal offenses, others are likely carried out for political and religious crimes.

In a separate report on Iran Amnesty advised that "the authorities heavily suppressed the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and religious belief, arresting and imprisoning peaceful critics and others after grossly unfair trials before Revolutionary Courts. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained common and widespread."

According to Amnesty International, 18,848 people worldwide are under death sentences and 3,117 were executed in 2016.

"Transparency is an essential safeguard of due Process," said Amnesty representative Renzo Pomi. In Iran, it's not possible to confirm the exact number of executions. For example, two people were killed for "insulting the Prophet" in violation of their right to freedom of religion.

The People's Republic of China presents another case shrouded in fog. While Amnesty International cites China as the world's leading global executioner with numbers in the thousands, the "figures on the use of the death penalty in China remain classified as state secrets." While Amnesty admits the use of the death penalty has decreased in China in recent years, there are still 46 categories of crime punishable by death.

"The Chinese authorities also continued to resort to the death penalty as a tool to send political messages," the report stated, adding though that the government is using the death sentence less for "economic crimes."

Vietnam ranks on "a scale higher than previously thought," according to the survey. Again, such information is shrouded as state secrets. During 2016, Vietnam imposed 63 new death sentences, though the number is likely larger.

Nonetheless, Amnesty has discovered an alarming trend where a recently published report by Vietnam' s Ministry of Public Security states that 429 prisoners were executed between August 2013 and June 2016 at a rate of 147 executions a year. Such figures would put Vietnam in a league with Pakistan when it comes to state sanctioned executions.

Speaking at a press conference, Argentine Ambassador Martin Garcia Moritan stated his country was "firmly committed against the death penalty," and moreover called for a "worldwide moratorium" against such actions by governments.

According to Amnesty's Renzo Pomi "today 141 countries worldwide have abolished the death penalty." This includes the entire Latin American region (including, rather improbably, Cuba), all of the European Union, much of Africa and Australia, and even Russia.

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