Amnesty International recently released its annual report about capital punishment in the world, entitled Death Sentences and Executions in 2008 (PDF). While the report contains some reasons for concern, it shows that the world is continuing to reject the death penalty.
Last year, countries around the world abolished the death penalty, including Uzbekistan and Argentina. The report states that “Europe and Central Asia is now virtually a death penalty free zone…” The only shameful example left is Belarus, which still has the death penalty and still executes people.
In addition, countries that have the death penalty used it less in 2008. Amnesty International found that out of 59 countries that still use capital punishment, only 25 executed anyone. Not all countries, however, demonstrated such restraint. According to the report, China executed about 1,718 people, Iran executed about 346 and Saudi Arabia killed about 102 people.
Unfortunately the United States placed fourth on the list with 37 people killed in death chambers throughout the country. There is, however, hope for the United States. The number of U.S. executions is declining. Death sentences are also declining.
This year has also brought some good news. Italy has abolished its death penalty. New Mexico will no longer use its death chamber. Several states had abolition legislation this year. New Hampshire’s House of Representatives recently voted to repeal the death penalty. There is even proposed federal legislation to abolish the federal death penalty.
Let’s all work to make sure that the progress away from this barbaric punishment continues both here and abroad.