21 August 2009


Recently more than 4,000 prisoners facing execution in Kenya had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment in the largest commutation in history. There have been no executions carried out in Kenya for 22 years.

In 2008, at least 2,390 people were known to have been executed in 25 countries and at least 8,864 people were sentenced to death in 52 countries around the world.

As in previous years, the five countries with the highest number of executions in 2008 were China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United States of America. Together these five countries carried out 93 per cent of all executions carried out in that year. These countries provide the greatest challenge towards global abolition of the death penalty.

In announcing the commutation of the death sentences, Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki also directed government bodies to study whether the death penalty had any impact on the fight against crime.

“This is a step forward for human rights in Kenya,” said Piers Bannister, Amnesty International’s expert on the death penalty. “We hope that the government studies ordered by the President will conclude that the death penalty does not have any unique deterrent effect, that it brutalises society and is often inflicted upon the innocent.”

"The time has arrived for Kenya to join the majority of the world's countries and abolish the death penalty," he added.

When the U.S. resumed executions in 1977, only 16 nations had abolished the death penalty; the number has since grown to 92 but many other countries like Kenya have implemented a moratorium on executions without formally abolishing capital punishment. More than 70 per cent of countries have a moratorium on executions or have abolished capital punishment.

"In South Korea there have been no executions for more than 10 years. In Taiwan there have been no executions for three years. But in Japan executions continue to rise bucking the international trend away from the death penalty,” said Martin Macpherson, Amnesty International's Director of the International Law and Organizations program.

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