‘Iran a leading executioner in 2011’ says Amnesty International

‘Large’ number of secret executions despite officials’ denial

Last year, executions were carried out at an “alarming rate” in countries where capital punishment is still employed, says human rights group Amnesty International.

“Countries that carried out executions in 2011 did so at an alarming rate but those employing capital punishment have decreased by more than a third compared to a decade ago,” the group said on Tuesday.

Amnesty’s annual review of death sentences and executions revealed that worldwide, only 10 percent of countries, twenty out of 198, carried out capital punishment. “Methods of execution in 2011 included beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.”

According to the organisation, some 18,750 people remained under sentence of death at the end of 2011 and at least 676 people were executed across the globe. This represents a 28 percent rise in the number of executions in comparison to 2010.

“In Iran, Amnesty International received credible reports of a large number of unconfirmed or even secret executions which would almost double the levels officially acknowledged,” the report warned.

In January 2012, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran released the first public list of 101 victims of secret group executions in Mashhad’s Vakilabad. The inmates had reportedly been executed without official acknowledgement, between 9 June 2010 and 20 December 2010. At the time, the group said that since January 2010, it had documented 471 secret executions in Mashhad and other cities.

“The actual numbers are likely much higher,” the group noted.

“Unfortunately, many of these executions happen behind closed doors, without the involvement of lawyers or awareness of the victim’s family, and without access to a fair trial,” said Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi.

“The Iranian judiciary and government know that the death penalty is not a suitable solution for fighting crime, particularly drug-related crimes. The basic question is this: why does the Iranian government use this type of punishment with such enthusiasm? The issue is that these executions only create fear and intimidation and serve only a political purpose. All of the statistics show that while the number of executions have increased the number of drug-related crimes have not decreased at all.”

Despite reports on secret hangings, in December 2011, the head of Iran’s judiciary Sadegh Larijani “categorically” denied any secret mass executions. “All executions are announced to my office…if anyone has information about executions anywhere that have been secret and without knowledge of families, let us know and we will investigate it.”

Amnesty International reports that in 2011, at least three people were executed in Iran for crimes that were committed when they were under eighteen years of age, in violation of international law.

It said that in China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia, execution cases also involved the extraction of ‘confessions’ through torture or other duress.

According to the study, there has been a “steep” increase in recorded executions in the Middle East, up almost 50 per cent compared to last year.

“This was due to four countries—Iraq (at least 68 executions), Iran (at least 360), Saudi Arabia (at least 82) and Yemen (at least 41).”

These figures accounted for 99 per cent of all recorded executions in the Middle East and North Africa.

“The rise in Iran and Saudi Arabia alone accounted for the net increase in recorded executions across the world of 149, compared to 2010.”

“The vast majority of countries have moved away from using the death penalty,” said Salil Shetty Secretary General of Amnesty International.

“Our message to the leaders of the isolated minority of countries that continue to execute is clear: you are out of step with the rest of the world on this issue and it is time you took steps to end this most cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”

“Even among the small group of countries that executed in 2011, we can see gradual progress. These are small steps but such incremental measures have been shown ultimately to lead to the end of the death penalty,” said Shetty.

“It is not going to happen overnight but we are determined that we will see the day when the death penalty is consigned to history.”

In early March 2012, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur, Ahmad Shaheed, released his second report on the deteriorating situation of human rights in Iran.

The former Maldivian Minister of Foreign Affairs called on Iranian authorities to “prohibit the execution of juveniles,” and to “seriously consider a moratorium on the death penalty for all crimes until such time as effective enforcement of due process rights may be meaningfully demonstrated.”

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