Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Death Penalty Is On the Decline Worldwide; The U.S. Ranks 5th, China Takes Top Spot

The Judicial System

Amnesty International Record of Execution by Nation in 2012: "At least 21 countries
were known to have carried out executions in 2012. However, it is unclear if executions
were carried out in countries in turmoil, such as Syria, in 2012. In 2011, equally 21 countries
 were reported to have implemented death sentences. These figures represent a significant 
decrease from a decade ago; in 2003, 28 countries carried out executions."
Image Credit & Source: Amnesty International, 2013

An article, by Alexis Manning, in National Geographic says that the state's use of the death penalty is on the decline worldwide; the United States, however, is one of the few nations who still use capital punishment, ranking fifth in the world in the number of individuals it puts to death each year.

Manning writes:
Amnesty International released their 2012 annual report on capital punishment this week, highlighting information on the differing ways countries handle execution around the world.
Here are five of the most interesting death penalty facts from last year:
1. The United States ranked fifth for the highest number of executions.
The U.S. takes a spot behind China, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia for the most executions in the world last year, sitting ahead of Yemen and the Sudan. This ranking comes as no surprise to Brian Evans, Amnesty International's acting director on the Death Penalty Abolition Campaign, who said the same countries are in the top eight every year. (See video: "Inside Death Row.") But why is the U.S.—which seems like somewhat of an outlier politically, culturally, and geographically—always in the top five?
According to Evans, the U.S. has a strict attitude toward punishment in general. Having a severe attitude toward the death penalty is only natural when you consider that the U.S. leads the world in mass incarceration of prisoners and holds records for solitary confinement and sentences to life in prison.
China is in top spot, with estimates in the thousands of the number of criminals it killed last year, although the numbers are unconfirmed since China does not release official figures. Next are Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, and the U.S., which was cited above. Amnesty International writes in its report: "At least 682 executions were known to have been carried out worldwide, two more than in 2011. However, the 682 figure does not include the thousands of people who were believed to have been executed in China in 2011."

There is a definite downward trend in state executions; National Geographic's Manning writes that "in December 2012, 111 countries—or more than half the world's countries—voted in favor of a United Nations resolution that would declare a global moratorium on executions."

You can read the rest of the article at [NatGeo]


  1. In 1984, there were signs at street corners in Baoding listing the names of people awaiting execution. After the executions a big red letter X was placed over their names.
    On a trip to Hangzhou, I saw a truck driving very slowly through the streets, preceded by police cars sounding their sirens. On the back of the open truck were prisoners--about 14 or so--on their way to be executed. In back of each prisoner were two policemen making sure the prisoner faced the street so that the spectators on the sidewalk could recognize him.

    1. In some cultures, the state uses public shaming as another measure of punishment, which dates to biblical times, surprising enough. I wonder if Chinese authorities are aware of its provenance.

  2. The practice no longer exists. On June 25, 1986, my article "Punishment Chinese-style: beware the red check mark" appeared in the Christian Science Monitor.
    A few months later, on December 17, a headline in China Daily reported "Parading criminals criticized." That was the end of that.
    Was there a connection between these two newspaper items? I would like to think so.


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