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Amnesty: Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen boost Mideast executions, push global total higher

Iran Materials 27 March 2012 07:25 (UTC +04:00)
A surge of executions last year in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen pushed the worldwide total higher than the year before, the global anti-death penalty group Amnesty International announced Monday.
Amnesty: Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen boost Mideast executions, push global total higher

A surge of executions last year in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen pushed the worldwide total higher than the year before, the global anti-death penalty group Amnesty International announced Monday, Associated Press reported.

The United States remains near the top of the global list of nations carrying out executions, ranked fifth.

Although the global rate of executions has declined by about a third in the past decade, to 676 documented worldwide in 2011, some 18,750 people remained on death row at the end of the year in 20 nations, Amnesty International said in its annual review of worldwide trends.

"We do not believe that governments should be in the business of executing citizens. That's an inappropriate role for the government to play, regardless of the circumstances," Suzanne Nossell, the executive director of Amnesty International USA, told The Associated Press.

Various countries subject a wide array of crimes to capital punishment, including adultery, sodomy and religious offenses such as apostasy or "treason against God" in Iran, blasphemy in Pakistan, "sorcery" in Saudi Arabia, trafficking in human bones in the Republic of Congo, and economic crimes in China including selling fake drugs or tainted foods or soliciting deceptive organ transplantation.

China executes thousands of people annually, many more than the rest of the world put together. Figures are a state secret, Amnesty International said, and it has stopped compiling them from public sources because those numbers lead to underreporting and a gross underestimate of the true total.

Amnesty International challenged Beijing to publish figures on sentencing and executions "to confirm their claims that various changes in law and practice have led to a significant reduction in the use of the death penalty over the last four years," the group said.

The wave of executions in the Middle East -- a 50 percent regional increase -- pushed the global total higher for 2011, with 149 executions worldwide more than in 2010.

Iran executed at least 360 people, many of them under harsh new anti-drug laws introduced last year. Iranian executions are usually conducted by hanging, sometimes in public from a construction crane, which Amnesty said led the Japanese construction equipment company Tadano to cut off exports of cranes to Iran last July.

Iraq executed 68 people, Amnesty found. "In Iraq, that country has transitioned and the U.S. has pulled out. Most of those executed have been Sunni Muslims and suspected members of armed groups," Nossell told the AP.

Saddam Hussein's former foreign minister and deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, is on death row in Iraq scheduled for execution this year.

Saudi Arabia executed at least 82; and Yemen executed at least 41.

Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen accounted for 99 percent of the executions in the Middle East and North Africa, Amnesty said.

Although all the Mideast and North African nations had very different governments and political dynamics, the 50-percent increase in executions came against the backdrop of the Arab Spring protests and upheaval.

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