We are pleased to attach the death penalty report for the period September – October 2022 thanks to group member Lesley who has prepared it. Of note is a handwritten letter from Jagtar Singh Johal who still languishes in prison. Note, as ever, that China does not feature in the report despite being the world’s largest executioner, but details are a state secret. We are pleased to report that Equatorial Guinea is the latest country to abolish the penalty.
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 India, Qatar 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.
World Day Against Death Penalty
The death penalty in Ghana has been frequently used in violation of international law and standards, affecting predominantly those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, as shown by research carried out by Amnesty International. It is high time the authorities of Ghana acted to fully abolish it.
In Ghana the death penalty has been imposed mainly as the mandatory punishment for murder, meaning that judges were unable to consider any mitigating factors relating to the case, the circumstances of the offence or the background of the defendants at sentencing, when they imposed the death penalty. This has meant, for example, that some women on death row could not have their experience of being subjected to prolonged domestic violence at the hands of their husbands or partners taken into account when they were convicted of their murders.
The widespread concerns on the lack of effective legal representation and appeals described by many on death row is also greatly alarming, including as these are critical safeguards to protect the rights of those facing the death penalty and avoid miscarriage of justice. Around three-quarters of the 107 people on death row interviewed by Amnesty International in preparing its 2017 report, had a state-appointed lawyer at trial level, with only around 15% able to hire a lawyer of their choice with help from their families. Three men stated they did not have any legal representation during their initial trial; of the three women on death row at the time of the interviews, two said they did not have a trial lawyer. Several others said that their lawyers had not attended all the hearings; and many said that they did not have a chance to talk to their lawyer and prepare their defence during trial.
As appeals are not mandatory in Ghana, the majority of those on death row told Amnesty International that they had been unable to appeal their convictions and death sentences. Most did not fully understand their right to appeal or how to pursue this process, and believed they needed to have sufficient money to hire a private lawyer in order to appeal. Figures provided by the Ghana Prison Service (the Prison Service) in March 2017 indicated that only 12 prisoners on death row had filed appeals since 2006. None of the three women on death row had been able to file an appeal due to lack of money. One woman told Amnesty International that at the time a lawyer asked for 60 million Old Ghana Cedi (more than US$12,000) to file an appeal.
It comes as no surprise that in a legal system with so few built-in safeguards those who end up carrying the burden of the death penalty have disadvantaged backgrounds. The majority of the 107 people interviewed came from outside of the greater Accra region, had minimal educational levels and were from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, with children left in the care of others. Against international safeguards, six people on death row at Nsawam Prison were considered to have mental (psychosocial) or intellectual disabilities and were not supported through specialized care.
Conditions for men and women on death row do not meet international standards. Both men and women reported overcrowding, poor sanitary facilities, isolation, and lack of adequate access to medical care and to recreational or educational opportunities available to other people in detention. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception.
This post is reproduced from Amnesty
Today is World Day Against the Death Penalty
This Amnesty report highlights the effects of the penalty on women
The use of death penalty has further impacts on women relatives and supporters of those on death row, as existing structural socio-economic inequalities, stigmatization and discrimination have been deepened by the sentencing to death of their loved ones. The campaigning briefing highlights some of the prevailing human rights concerns associated with the impact of the death penalty on women and calls for action to end the injustice and arbitrariness of the death penalty. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, as a violation of the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Amnesty International is a founding member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which coordinates this global day of activism against the death penalty every 10 October.
Available as a podcast
Action to take on 10 October
While in India for his wedding in November 2017, Jagtar Singh Johal, a British Sikh (pictured), was arrested and accused of involvement in terrorism and in the assassination of a number of Hindu leaders in the Punjab. He is alleged to have faced torture and been forced to sign blank statements and record a video. This ‘confession’ was broadcast on national television, where the political nature of his ‘crimes’ was stressed. He has had no actual trial but faces the death penalty.
Mr Johal’s brother, Gurpreet, who lives in Scotland, says his brother was a peaceful activist and believes he was arrested because he had written about historical human rights violations against Sikhs in India. He has appealed to the British Government to seek his brother’s release and to bring him home.
In February of this year, almost 140 MPs wrote to the then Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, asking him to
seek Mr Johal’s release, and a debate was held in Parliament with calls for him to be declared a ‘victim of arbitrary detention. In June, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, wrote to Mr Raab, urging him to seek Mr Johal’s release. Gurpreet Singh Johal is grateful for her support, but believes direct intervention from the British Government is essential.
Mr Johal is supported by the organisations Reprieve and Redress. He has made numerous court appearances, but his trial has been repeatedly delayed at the request of the prosecution and basic information denied to his defence counsel.
Mr Raab said he was doing all he could and had been in touch with the Indian authorities, but his response was criticised as ‘weak’. With the appointment of the new Foreign Secretary – Liz Truss – there is an opportunity to bring Mr Johal’s situation to her attention, and to call for a more positive and pro-active response.
Please write to:
Ms Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs of the
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
King Charles Street
London SW1A 0AA Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
and ask her to intervene in Mr Johal’s case, and to secure his release and return home.
Please date your letter 10th October 2021, calling attention to the fact that it is the 19th World Day against the Death Penalty.
Report on Amnesty Death penalty discussion
On 10 October 2020, the 18th World Day Against the Death Penalty, Amnesty hosted a discussion with three people who are closely connected with the campaign to end the practice. They were Kim Manning Cooper; Dr Bharat Malkani and Chiara Sangiorgio. It was chaired by Paul Bridges. It was a fascinating talk in which they discussed different aspects of how the death penalty works in the USA. Amnesty has maintained a consistent policy of condemning the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. It is fundamentally about human dignity.
Amnesty is also opposed to life sentences without the chance of parole.
Much of the discussion focused on the miscarriages of justice in the USA. The death penalty does not do what its proponents claim it does. It does not deter violent crime. States who do not use the penalty have some of the lowest murder rates in the Union. It is expensive, with 724 people on death row in California alone, which has cost the state $4bn since 1978. Mistakes are common and of course cannot be put right. Since 1973, 170 prisoners on death row have been exonerated, a quite staggering level of error. The One for Ten movement was referred to, which notes that for every ten people executed in the US, one has been exonerated and released, having spent, on average, ten years on death row.
Dr Malkani’s talk explored the effects on innocent people. Following arrest for a crime they did not commit, there is a feeling of a sheer sense of disbelief. Their first concern is for their loved ones. How would they cope without them and if they have children, how will they handle school when everyone will know that their parent has been arrested for murder? He mentioned the ‘ripple effect’ which results in trauma being felt among a wide community of individuals, not just the immediate family.
There follows a sense of hopelessness, realising that the might of the State is trying to kill you. Next comes anger when you know you are innocent. (No reference was made to the fact that that the US does not have the equivalent of PACE, which requires evidence indicating innocence to be disclosed to the defence. This evidence is often not disclosed with the aim of a securing a conviction.)
Dr Malkani went on to discuss the effects on people released after a long period of captivity. Understandably, they want to return to their previous life, but they find this impossible as so much has changed both in society and in their families. Their children have grown up without knowing them. It is also difficult to achieve a personal identity having spent the many years in captivity as just a number. Now free, they are always described as someone who was on death row.
Because they were on death row, they received no training or attempts at rehabilitation since they were destined for execution. The pace of modern technology meant the world was a completely different place. There were no support systems in place. There was also relationship breakdown after such long periods of separation. Sadly, many die quite soon after their release.
Kim Manning-Cooper spoke of the infamous Troy Davis case. An off-duty policeman was murdered and a witness came forward claiming that Troy was the killer. It now appears possible that the witness himself may have been the culprit. There are too many irregularities to list but include witnesses who were threatened with being charged themselves, police statements signed by people who could not read or write, some witnesses were threatened by the police, no forensic or DNA evidence was submitted, and no gun was ever found. An evidentiary hearing was held by the Supreme Court but, despite the multiple failings in the prosecution case and some misgivings, the appeal failed and Davis was executed in September 2011. His sister had campaigned tirelessly in his support. Amnesty International campaigned for justice in the Davis case, a cause the Salisbury group took part in.
Kim said people often say ‘the system is failing black men but in reality, the failure is in the way the system was designed’.
‘the system is failing black men but in reality, the failure is in the way the system was designed’
This theme was developed by Dr Malkani. The issue of race was built into the legal system in the USA he said. It
dates back to the 13th amendment of the US Constitution which abolished slavery ‘except as a punishment for a crime’. When lynching ended in the 1920’s, executions skyrocketed, as evidenced by the Death Penalty Information Center. The bias extended to the prosecution process, with district attorneys unwilling to prosecute a black person murdered by a white but all too willing to prosecute the other way around. Some members of juries in the state of Georgia are quoted as saying ‘black people have no souls’. Many murders of black people remain unsolved. Only 21 white people have been executed for killing a black person but 296 black people for killing a white person.
Finally, he said the effects on wardens and prison guards can also be profound as was shown in the award winning film Clemency.
The question was posed ‘could the justice system ever be error proof?’ This was related to things like the use of DNA. The answer was that no system could be error proof, DNA was not infallible and was not a silver bullet, although sometimes evidence is found years later. The justice system could not be used to solve issues of bad housing, drug addiction and social problems generally. We needed to advocate for prison reform as well as ending the death penalty and life sentences without the prospect of parole.
This was a most interesting discussion. There is a slow decline in the number of executions and Americans themselves are increasingly wanting the practice ended. The role of Black Lives Matter is likely to have an effect. There are other countries in the world with far worse records – Saudi Arabia, and Iran – but especially China. The numbers executed in China run into thousands but details are a state secret.
For American readers: PACE – the Police and Criminal Evidence Act provides a range of protections to people arrested in the UK one of which is the defense must see all the evidence collected by the police, not just that which indicates possible guilt.
Today (10 October 2020) is the 18th World and European Day Against the Death Penalty
Amnesty is opposed to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and we have campaigned for many years against the practice. There has been a gradual decline but still there are too many countries which continue the barbaric practice. It is neither humane nor effective. It does not deter violent crime or murder and studies in America have shown that there is no difference in murder rates between those states which retain the penalty and those that don’t.
While working towards the total and complete abolition of the death penalty worldwide for all crimes, it is crucial to alert civil society and the international community to the necessity that, at all stages of the legal proceedings, those facing the cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment of execution should at least have access to effective legal representation. Such legal aid can provide the basic protection of either avoiding the sentence or appealing the verdict.
The death penalty in Saudi Arabia: Salisbury group action
Programme of forthcoming group events
We have a number of events planned in the period between now and Christmas so these are listed below. Please note that some are yet to be fully confirmed and dates may change for one or two so please check here or on our Facebook or Twitter pages for updates.
7 September Coffee morning at St Thomas’s church in Salisbury. After an absence of several years we are pleased to be able to host this event again in this church. It would be a good time to make yourself known if wish to join us. We hope to show a looped film.
8 October THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED Author and journalist Paul Mason is coming to speak at the Salisbury Methodist church starting at 7:30. Paul has written a book Clear Bright Future and the issue of human rights in the modern age is discussed. We are awaiting confirmation from his agent over the date. Note this event is postponed from June hence the link text saying it was ‘cancelled’.
10 October World Day Against the Death Penalty. Details of any event nearer the time. See our latest DP report.
24 October As part of schools Citizenship programme, we shall be giving a presentation at Bishops Wordsworth. We rather regret few schools take part in this so if any teacher in the Salisbury area is reading this and would like a presentation in their school, please get in touch.
13 November Film at the Arts Centre. The film is Nae Pasaran about a group of Scottish workers refusing to repair aircraft engines destined for the Chilean government after the coup which took place there.
17 December Our annual carol singing event in the Victoria Road, College Street, Marlborough Road area with members of the Farrant Singers. This is a popular event and several families come into the street to listen to a selection of carols properly sung by this choir.
We look forward to seeing you at one or more of these events.
Carol singing in 2018
The death penalty report for September/October 2017 is attached thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.
China remains the world’s largest executioner of its citizens but the statistics are a state secret.