Amnesty’s annual death penalty report published


Amnesty’s annual death penalty report for 2021 has just been published

The introduction to the report is reproduced here. The full report is available from this link.

Amnesty International recorded 579 executions in 18 countries in 2021, an increase of 20% from the 483 recorded in 2020. This figure represents the second lowest number of executions recorded by Amnesty International since at least 2010. Most known executions took place in China, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria – in that order.

China remained the world’s leading executioner – but the true extent of its use of the death penalty is unknown as this data is classified as a state secret; the global figures for executions and death sentences therefore exclude the thousands of people that Amnesty International believes to have been sentenced to death and executed in China. Figures for North Korea and Viet Nam, which are believed to have extensively resorted to executions, were also not included in the global executions figure, as secrecy and lack of access to independent information made it impossible to assess trends.

Amnesty International recorded 24 women among the 579 people known to have been executed in 2021 (4%), in the following countries: Egypt (8), Iran (14), Saudi Arabia (1) and USA (1).

Belarus, Japan and UAE resumed executions. Amnesty International did not record any executions in IndiaQatar and Taiwan, having done so in 2020.

Iran executed at least 314 people (up from at least 246 in 2020), their highest number of executions since 2017, reversing year-on-year declines since then.

Recorded executions in Saudi Arabia rose sharply, from 27 to 65, an increase of 140% percent.

Despite these increases, the 2021 global executions figure constitutes the second-lowest figure recorded by Amnesty International since at least 2010. For the second consecutive year, the number of countries known to have executed people was the lowest the organization has recorded. In 2019, 2020 and 2021 Amnesty International recorded 657, 483 and 579 executions respectively.

In July, Sierra Leone’s parliament unanimously adopted an Act which abolishes the death penalty for all crimes.  Kazakhstan adopted legislation in December abolishing the death penalty for all crimes, which came into effect this year.  Papua New Guinea embarked on a national consultation on the death penalty, which resulted in the adoption of an abolition Bill in January 2022, still to come into force. The Government of Malaysia announced that it would table legislative reforms on the death penalty in the third quarter of 2022.

At the end of 2021, more than two thirds of the world’s countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice.  108 countries, a majority of the world’s states, had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes and 144 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice.  55 countries still retained the death penalty.

Amnesty International recorded commutations or pardons of death sentences in 19 countries: Bangladesh, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, UAE, USA, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Amnesty International recorded seven exonerations of people under sentence of death in four countries: Bahrain (1), Kenya (1), USA (2) and Zambia (3).

Amnesty International recorded 2,052 death sentences imposed in 56 countries, up 39% from at least 1,477 in 54 countries in 2020.

Ethiopia, Guyana, Maldives, Oman, Tanzania, and Uganda handed down death sentences having not done so in 2020, while the reverse was true of Bahrain, Comoros, Laos and Niger.

At the end of 2021, at least 28,670 people were known to be under sentence of death. Nine countries held 82% of the known totals: Iraq (8,000+), Pakistan (3,800+), Nigeria (3,036+), USA (2,382), Bangladesh (1,800+), Malaysia (1,359), Viet Nam (1,200+), Algeria (1,000+), Sri Lanka (1,000+).

The following methods of execution were used across the world in 2021: beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.

Four people were executed for crimes that occurred when they were below 18 years of age: in Iran (3) and Yemen (1).  Amnesty International believes that other people in this category remained on death row in Maldives, Myanmar and Iran.

At least 134 executions for drug-related offences were known to have been carried out in two countries (China and Iran), an increase of 346% from 2020 (30). Information on Viet Nam, which is very likely to have carried out such executions, was unavailable.

Death sentences were known to have been imposed after proceedings that did not meet international fair trial standards in countries including Algeria, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Egypt, Iran, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Singapore and Yemen.


The Salisbury group collects information from around the world and publishes a report each month. The most recent report can be accessed here and others by searching the site or via a search engine.

Amnesty’s death penalty report: 2020


This is an extract from Amnesty’s annual death penalty report for 2020 which, overall, is good news with a decline in the use of the penalty around the world. It excludes China which executes thousands of its citizens but does not publish figures which are a state secret.

Once again the number of known executions has fallen (by 26%) and at 483 is now at its lowest for 10 years.  The number of known death sentences imposed has also fallen. Much of the fall in execution numbers has been driven by significant reductions in Saudi Arabia (down 84%) and Iraq (down over 50%).  However, these falls have been offset by a tripling of executions in Egypt to at least 107.

The five countries that executed the most people are China (1,000s), Iran (at least 246), Egypt (at least 107), Iraq (at least 45) and Saudi Arabia (27). In the USA the picture is mixed with state executions significantly down but this was negated by a surge in federal executions ordered by the outgoing Trump administration.  The USA remains the only country in the Americas to execute people.

The number of known death sentences handed down has also fallen from 2,307 to 1,477 although some of this reduction appears to be due to delays in proceedings in response to the pandemic.

18 countries are known to have carried out executions in 2020, a reduction of 2 since 2019.  Chad and the US state of Colorado abolished the death penalty and Kazakhstan committed to its abolition. On the other hand executions were resumed in India, Qatar, Oman and Taiwan.

Some of the more disturbing trends in 2020 included the following:

  • The Trump administration executed 10 people at the federal level in less than six months
  • China used the death penalty to crack down on offences related to Covid-19 prevention efforts
  • In some countries, including the USA, defence lawyers said that they had been unable to meet clients face to face because of Covid restrictions.

Asia-Pacific countries were notable for imposing death sentences for crimes not involving intentional killing, which is in violation of international law. This included drug offences in China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam, corruption in China and Viet Nam and for blasphemy in Pakistan. In the Maldives five people under the age of 18 at the time of their offences remain under sentence of death.

Nevertheless the trend remains positive. 144 countries have now abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.  123 countries supported the UN General Assembly’s call for a moratorium on executions.  In the USA the state of Virginia recently became the first southern state to abolish the death penalty and several bills to abolish it at federal level are pending before Congress.

Amnesty continues to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances and will continue to campaign until the death penalty is abolished everywhere for good.

Amnesty’s annual report: UK element


Aspect of the annual report detailing the UK government’s actions regarding human rights of UK subjects

The government response to COVID-19 raised human rights concerns, including in relation to health, immigration policies, domestic abuse and housing. Instances of racial discrimination and excessive force against protesters by the police were documented. Northern Ireland made progress on same-sex marriage and abortion, but full accountability for past violations remained unrealized. New licences for military exports to Saudi Arabia resumed. Bills on counter-terrorism and overseas military operations endangered  human rights.  Extradition proceedings against Julian Assange threatened the right to freedom of expression. The full report can be accessed from this link (pdf).

BACKGROUND

On 31 January, the UK left the European Union and began an 11-month transition period.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, parliament granted far-reaching emergency powers to the UK and devolved governments for up to two years, subject to parliamentary renewal every six months. Lockdowns implemented to slow the spread of the virus severely restricted freedom of movement, freedom of peaceful assembly and the right to privacy and family life.

At least 74,570 people died in the UK as a result of COVID-19 in 2020. The economic impact of the pandemic caused widespread hardship, particularly for those in insecure employment and people subject to immigration controls.

In May and June, Black Lives Matter protests drew attention to systemic racism and discrimination against Black people.

RIGHT TO HEALTH

The UK death toll due to COVID-19 represented one of the highest death rates from the virus in Europe. Health and other essential workers reported shortages of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimize their risk of contracting COVID-19. By 25 May, 540 deaths involving COVID-19 had been registered among social care and health workers. The authorities violated the right to health and right to life of older people resident in care homes, including by failing to provide adequate PPE and regular testing, discharging infected or possibly infected patients from hospitals to care homes and suspending regular oversight procedures.

In June, an official investigation found that people of Black and Asian ethnicity were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. In particular, Black and Asian health workers were significantly over-represented among COVID-19 related deaths of health workers.

The government resisted calls from over 70 organizations to immediately launch an independent public inquiry into its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, stating that an inquiry would take place at an unspecified time in the future.

DISCRIMINATION

In March, a review of the so-called “Windrush scandal” was published. The review identified serious failings in the government’s treatment of the Windrush generation, who settled in the UK as British nationals from the Caribbean and other Commonwealth countries before 1973 but who, along with some of their descendants, were later treated as if they had no permission to be in the UK. Although the government promised to act on the far- reaching recommendations of the review, the proposed changes failed to address the root causes of the scandal, including the racism embedded in nationality and immigration laws and policies.

Discrimination in the exercise of police powers continued to be a concern. Data on fines issued for non-compliance with the COVID-19 related lockdown revealed that Black and Asian people were disproportionately fined. In May, during the first national lockdown, police in London conducted a record number of stop and searches: 43,644, of which 10,000 targeted young Black men. Racial disproportionality specifically against Black people continued to feature heavily across various policing issues, including the use of force and of Taser. Police figures published in 2020 showed that Black people were up to eight times more likely to have Taser used against them than White people in 2018/19. High-profile cases of Taser use against Black people in London and Manchester, including one case in the presence of a child, highlighted this issue.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

In June, police used excessive force against Black Lives Matter protesters in London, including the confinement of people to a narrow space (“kettling”) and the use of horses to disperse crowds. Police issued approximately 70 infringements of COVID-19 restrictions to peaceful protesters at Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Belfast and Derry-Londonderry and initiated criminal investigations against the organizers, relying on COVID-19 related enforcement powers that came into force on the eve of the protest. In December, the Northern Ireland Policing Board found policing of the protests to have been “potentially unlawful”, while the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland found it to have been “unfair” and “discriminatory”.

REFUGEES, ASYLUM-SEEKERS AND MIGRANTS
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government failed to adequately modify immigration policies and practices to safeguard public health. People continued to be held in immigration detention for the purposes of removal from the UK, despite the heightened risk of infection in detention and obstacles to effecting removal. Asylum claims were required to be made in person.

Statutory exclusions or restrictions on access to employment, welfare, accommodation and health care for people subject to immigration control undermined their ability to protect themselves from the virus and maintain an adequate standard of living. The government resisted widespread calls to suspend the “no recourse to public funds” policy, which restricts access to benefits for many migrants, during the pandemic.

Parliament passed a new immigration law in November which granted exceptionally broad legislative powers to the Home Secretary and ended free movement rights under EU law. Children entitled to British citizenship continued to be prevented by government policy and practice from registering their entitlement. Children of EU nationals became particularly at risk because of their loss of free movement rights in the UK.

RIGHT TO HOUSING

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government introduced some measures, albeit only short-term, to protect the right to housing. It suspended court proceedings for evictions in England and Wales from 27 March until 20 September and temporarily increased the minimum notice period prior to eviction for most tenants.

By September, 29,000 rough sleepers and other vulnerable people had been supported into accommodation during the pandemic, according to official figures. Homelessness charities reported a sharp increase in demand for their services since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

RIGHTS OF LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER AND INTERSEX (LGBTI) PEOPLE

In February, the first same-sex marriages took place in Northern Ireland after the success in 2019 of a long-running campaign for marriage equality. Religious same-sex marriages were permitted from September, and the conversion of existing civil partnerships was allowed from December.

Amid growing transphobic rhetoric and fear-mongering in the media, the government’s proposed amendments to the outdated Gender Recognition Act in England and Wales fell short of human rights standards. A second consultation to reform gender recognition law in Scotland ended in March.

WOMEN’S RIGHTS

There was an increase in reported cases of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. The government lacked a fully coordinated plan to tackle the foreseeable risk of domestic violence during the pandemic and failed to provide sufficient and timely emergency funding for frontline services. None of the additional funding was ring-fenced for specialist services for ethnic minority women, despite an increase in referrals to these services. Migrant women whose immigration status excludes them from most government benefits faced compounded challenges in obtaining support for domestic violence.

The Domestic Abuse Bill lacked provisions to ensure safety and access to justice for migrant women. The bill did not meet the government’s stated intention of bringing domestic legislation in line with the Istanbul Convention, which the UK had yet to ratify.

The criminalization of sex work and denial of sex workers’ labour rights meant that they were particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and related measures. The government maintained a five-week waiting period for social security payments, despite previously acknowledging that it was a factor in some women resorting to sex work.

SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

After the decriminalization of abortion in 2019, regulations governing the provision of abortion services in Northern Ireland took effect on 31 March. The government allowed both abortion pills to be taken at home during the COVID-19 pandemic in all regions of the UK except Northern Ireland, where a local temporary service providing early medical abortions began in April, allowing one abortion pill to be taken on health and social care premises, and the second one at home.

Whilst abortion services in Northern Ireland were legal and running to varying degrees, by year’s end the authorities had yet to formally commission abortion services that were adequately resourced, sustainable and fully accessible to all who need them.

NORTHERN IRELAND – LEGACY ISSUES

In March, the government issued proposals to address the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland which were not compatible with human rights standards and departed from commitments made in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement and subsequent government statements and agreements. The proposals would limit prosecutions of those suspected of criminal responsibility for crimes under international law and human rights violations and abuses during the decades-long conflict.

The government refused to launch a public inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane, a Belfast lawyer killed in 1989, despite a 2019 Supreme Court ruling, which found that his murder was not effectively investigated in line with human rights standards.

IRRESPONSIBLE ARMS TRANSFERS

The UK resumed issuing licences for military exports to Saudi Arabia in July, after a court ruling in June 2019 required the government to suspend new licensing of military equipment to Saudi Arabia.

In response to the excessive use of force against US Black Lives Matter protesters, members of parliament and several organizations, including Amnesty International, called on the UK to suspend exports of crowd control equipment, such as tear gas and rubber bullets, to US law enforcement agencies. In September, the government stated that it had re-assessed export licences of such equipment to the USA in response to these events and concluded there was “no clear risk” of misuse.

STATE OVERREACH

The Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill proposed a major overhaul of the sentencing regime for counter-terrorism offences, including the removal of some key safeguards on the use of already concerning administrative control measures known as Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs). The proposed changes included lowering the standard of proof for the imposition of a TPIM.

IMPUNITY

In March, the government proposed a new law which would seriously restrict prosecutions for offences committed by British soldiers overseas, including torture and other ill-treatment as well as other crimes under international law. The proposed law would create a “presumption against prosecution” after five years.

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Hearings to consider a US extradition request for Julian Assange began in February and resumed in September. Assange remained detained at Belmarsh prison and faced prosecution in the USA for the publication of disclosed documents as part of his work with Wikileaks. Amnesty International called on the USA to drop the charges and on the UK to halt his extradition to the USA where he would face a real risk of serious human rights violations.

Annual Report

Three year report


Three year report on the group’s activities is published

The three year report, prepared by our chair, is published and shows what we have achieved over this time.  It is always interesting to look back and review progress and for a small group, we have done a lot in the last 3 years.

Annual Report 2016 (pdf)

Tapestry in the Playhouse
Tapestry in the Playhouse

Dominic Grieve QC MP
Dominic Grieve QC MP

Carols pic 1
Carol signing

Group campaign event, Saturday 8 November
Group campaign event, Saturday 8 November

Kate Allen at the Cathedral

 

Group members and speakers at the Playhouse
Group members and speakers at the Playhouse

 

 

 

 

 

David Davis MP with Kate Allen, Salisbury Cathedral
Speakers at the Cathedral including Kate Allen

 

 

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