6 May 2013


Changing unjust structures and systems is slow work. It is often difficult to see results for one's efforts - at least in the short term. Sometimes there are encouraging breakthroughs such as those described in the preceding articles, more often change is slow and incremental and at times it even appears to reverse.

The campaign to abolish the death penalty is a good example.

According to Amnesty International the trend toward abolishing the death penalty continues, despite some countries resuming executions in 2012.

Executions in India, Japan, Pakistan, and Gambia were disappointing regressions, Amnesty notes, but elsewhere the death penalty was "becoming a thing of the past," according to secretary-general Salil Shetty.

The five countries carrying out most executions remain China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the USA (although fewer states carried out executions, and last week Maryland became the 18th state to repeal capital punishment).

Overall, there were just two more known executions last year - 682 in all - compared to 2011. And there were fewer newly-imposed death sentences - 1,722 against 1,923 - in fewer countries - 58 against 63.

Also, despite the resumptions of executions in some countries, overall the number of states where they were recorded last year was the same - 21 - as in 2011 and Amnesty International points out that this is down significantly from 28 a decade ago. Latvia last year became the 97th country to abolish capital punishment for all crimes.

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