Death Penalty which is also called Capital Punishment is regarded as the ultimate type of punishment anybody can ever receive for an offense. It is normally reserved for the most extreme cases of crime like felony, premeditated murder, drug trafficking and occasionally, non-violent drug-related and economic offenses. Death penalty has also been used sometimes, as punishment on individuals for offences like adultery, apostasy, and blasphemy, but these are acts that should not at all be considered criminal as judged by Amnesty International.
Punishment by death penalty which used to be in practice in almost every part of the world has been on the decline with more and more countries abolishing it within the last few decades following strong advocacy for its total abolishment by Amnesty International. However, there are still a few countries where death sentence is still being strongly hung unto despite pleas from international humanitarian organizations. Some countries, though not having implemented it in the past 10 years, have still not abolished it completely.
In 2012, 21 countries used the death penalty and 5 of them were African Countries including Sudan, Gambia, Somalia, South Sudan, and Botswana. Methods of executions included beheading, hanging, firing squad and the use of lethal injections. Based on Amnesty International’s most recent research, here is the list of top ten countries with the death penalty including 2 African countries:
Japan is one of the countries with death penalty where it is absolutely a legalized form of punishment. Federal crimes like murder and treason are the only crimes for which capital punishment is statutory and is ordinarily imposed in cases of multiple murders involving aggravating factors. At a time when the world is heading towards abolishing death penalty, 2 gangsters were hanged in Japan on 26th April, 2013. Katsuji Hamasaki, 64, and Yoshihide Miyagi, 56, were executed after being convicted of the murder of rival gang members. More executions are likely under new Prime Minister Abe, who has expressed strong support for the death penalty and with more than 130 persons on death row in Japan, the numbers are bound to increase.
In Japan, individuals on death row are not placed in prisons and are not classified as prisoners by the justice system in the country. The extent of rights awarded to such people are insignificant when compared to other Japanese prisoners. Only 2 periods of exercise per week is permitted and non is allowed within their cells. They are left without access to any form of digital entertainment like televisions and may only possess three books. It is worthy of note that between 1946 and 1993, Japanese courts sentenced 766 people to death, 608 of whom were executed.
Gambia was recently seen on the news when 9 prisoners on death row were executed in late 2012, with more than 35 other inmates convicted and sentenced to capital punishment. The numbers have however, come down compared to the figures from 2009 and 2010 when 13 prisoners were executed in each of those years. Following acute criticism of the execution, the Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, approved a conditional moratorium on executions of death row prisoners which is largely dependent on changes in crime rate in the country with the provision to revert to capital punishment if there is no drop in crime rate.
Afghanistan is the 8 country with most deaths by death penalty where the capital punishment is still legal and supported. Though the incidence of such punishments has been on the decline and the Afghan government has only carried out the punishment every few years since the fall of the Taliban (who were known to regularly execute people in public) in 2001, 14 inmates at Kabul’s Pul-e Charkhi prison were recently hanged on Tuesday (20/11/2012) and Wednesday (21/11/2012) for a variety of crimes, including murder, kidnapping, rape and terrorism.
Due to widespread support of this act in Afghanistan, other inmates are likely to meet the same fate in the nearest future. In Afghanistan, before the death penalty is carried out, the president must personally sign the order to have it enforced. There are certain types of crime that attract such capital punishment based on Islamic law and it includes: murder, apostasy, homosexuality, rape, terrorism, drug trafficking, and adultery. Under the military law, it can be used in cases of treason and desertion under any of the two allowed methods prescribed under the Afghan law – death by hanging or facing the firing squad.
In 2011, Sudan was the leading executioner of death penalty in Africa. However, in recent times, there have been moves toward its abolitionism. In 2010, a minimum of 13 people were executed and 10 more were sentenced to death. The following year (2011) saw at least 7 people executed and 13 more sentenced to death. In 2012, at least 1 person was sentenced to death. It is still estimated that as of July 2012, close to 300 people were held under death sentence and most of them were charged in 2006.
Yemen has one of the highest execution rates in the world. The country still allows public executions and is also one of the four left on Earth that still allows capital punishment for minors. In one of the recent cases, Mohammed was put to death on Saturday, 9th March, 2013 after he shot an intruder at his home in the central Yemeni city of Tiaz in 1999. The man later died of his wounds. Various judges, including the one who made the initial ruling, determined that the killing was done out of self-defense and that Mohammed was underage at the time of the crime.
Capital punishment in the south Arabian country is commonly applied for a wide variety of criminal offences like rape, murder, terrorism and in some cases under the sharia law for Islamic offences like prostitution, adultery, sexual misconduct, and apostasy. The list of crimes may also include kidnapping, drug trafficking, robbery, homosexuality, and treason. Capital punishment in Yemen is typically carried out by shooting. However, there is still a legal permission for stoning which remains a viable option for charges against adultery even though it has not been used in centuries.
5. United States of America
USA is one of the leading countries with support for death penalty. In 2012, 43 prisoners were executed with 3,146 waiting on death row in the U.S. Capital punishment has been in practice in the US since 1608 when the first recorded death sentence in then British North American colonies of the United States was executed on a victim known as Captain George Kendall, who had to face a firing squad for allegedly spying for the Spanish government.
Over time in history, amendments had been made and today, it is limited under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and used only for aggravated murders committed by mentally intact adults. It is currently a legal punishment in 32 states of America. Various methods are employed which quite vary by jurisdiction and include lethal injection which is the most commonly used.
4. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is the 4th highest executioner of death penalty which is largely based on the sharia law and is usually carried out by public beheading, making the country one of the last 5 to be executing prisoners publicly usually at Deera Square also known as “Justice Square” or “Chop Square” in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in which public executions (usually by beheading take place). In some cases, further crucifixion of the already beheaded body in public is sometimes ordered. This was typically seen in 2009 when the Saudi Gazette reported that “An Abha court sentenced the leader of an armed gang to death with a 3 day crucifixion (public displaying of the beheaded body) and at the same time, 6 other gang members were sentenced to beheading for their role in jewelry store robberies in Asir.
Apart from the country’s stand on capital punishment, Saudi Arabia is also in support of “eye for an eye” or ‘Qisas’, or retribution, which means the victim can demand the offender suffers the same punishment as he caused. For instance, Ali al-Khawahir, 24 was sentenced to paralysis for a crime he committed when he was 14 and after serving 10 years in prison, the Saudi court found him guilty of stabbing a childhood friend, who was paralysed from the waist down after the attack.
Iraq had not seen the degree of executions since after the days of Saddam Hussein and he succeeded in passing on this legacy to the government that succeeded him. The interim US government suspended death as a form of punishment on June 10, 2003 after Saddam Hussein was removed from office. However, on 8th August, 2004, the death penalty was reinstated which according to the laws governing the country, requires execution of any convicted individual within 30 days of all legal avenues being exhausted. In March, 2013, 33 people were executed and the government still plans to put another 150 people to death and in a UN statement regarding the situation, “executing people in batches like this is obscene. It is like processing animals in a slaughterhouse.”
Iran carried out the second-greatest number of executions for capital punishment in 2012. Apart from 314 official executions in the Islamic Republic of Iran, there were reports of not less than 230 additional executions that were carried out secretly. Typically, crimes punishable by death in Iran include murder, child molestation, rape, armed robbery, kidnapping, sodomy, drug trafficking, terrorism, and treason. “Enmity against God,” which is a vague charge has also been used in the Iranian state in political attacks against government opponents and minorities.
China is the number 1 country with death sentence. According to Amnesty International, there were at least 682 confirmed executions worldwide in 2012 and China is believed to have executed a lot more than was reported with numbers running into several thousands of people and that actual execution numbers greatly exceed officially recorded executions. The secrecy of the government makes it impossible to confirm the exact numbers. In 2009, the Dui Hua Foundation estimated that 5,000 people were executed in China — far more than all other nations combined. The precise number of executions is regarded as a state secret.
As the world drives down to abolishing death penalty, research has shown that capital punishment is not a more effective way to dissuade people from committing crime than other forms of punishments.