and Iraq remain among the world’s top five executioners despite an overall drop
in the number of death sentences, according to a new report by human rights
monitor Amnesty International.
Although the number of executions worldwide fell from at least 993 in 2017 to at least 690 in 2018, Iran and Iraq are still among the world’s most prolific executioners, Amnesty’s 2018 global review of the death penalty revealed Wednesday.
Although Beijing does not publish its death penalty figures, China tops the list with an execution rate estimated in the thousands each year. Amnesty excludes China from its global count because of lack of data.
Iran has the world’s second highest rate for 2018 with at least 253 executions. Saudi Arabia meanwhile executed 149, Vietnam at least 85, and Iraq at least 52.
“The dramatic global fall in executions proves that even the most unlikely countries are starting to change their ways and realize the death penalty is not the answer,” said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
“Despite regressive steps from some, the number of executions carried out by several of the worst perpetrators has fallen significantly. This is a hopeful indication that it’s only a matter of time before this cruel punishment is consigned to history, where it belongs,” Naidoo added.
Amnesty did, however, acknowledge increases in Belarus, Japan, Singapore, South Sudan, and the US.
Iran’s execution rate has fallen by 50 percent in the past year as a result of changes to its drugs law, Amnesty said, but the country still accounts for more than one third of executions recorded globally.
Human rights monitors have also said Iran could be executing more people in secret, and Amnesty has previously reported that the number of death sentences handed down in Iran has risen.
Four Kurds were executed by the Iranian government late last year.
Meanwhile, Iraq has drawn criticism for its execution of ISIS members after trials that rights agencies have condemned as rushed and unfair.
Kurdistan Region authorities imposed a de facto moratorium on the death penalty in 2008, which essentially blocks its use except for terror-related charges or “exceptionally heinous crimes.”
Kurdish law requires the president to sign death sentences before they can be carried out. Since 2008, the death penalty has been carried out in just four cases. Most recently, a Kurdish man and his two wives, convicted of abducting and murdering two schoolgirls, were hanged in November 2016.
Human rights groups have urged the Kurdistan Region to abolish the death penalty permanently and commute them to life in prison.