While the media focus is currently on Singapore and the impending execution of Van Nguyen, it should be remembered that there are about 75 countries around the world which have legislation allowing for, and which practice, capital punishment.
Presently we are experiencing a classic case of what we don't see doesn't interest us. While a young Australian awaits death by hanging in Singapore, there are many others in jails around the world awaiting execution. In fact, Amnesty International reports during 2004 there were 3,797 people executed and 7,395 sentenced to death. According to Amnesty in that year, 97 per cent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, Vietnam and the US.
Although I object to the likely execution in Singapore, I am also mindful of other countries' attitudes and practices on this issue. While the media, to sell advertising, focus only on the Australian interest, I think it behoves our politicians to focus not just on the Van Nguyen case but also on the subject of the death penalty in all countries. Decency demands pressure be brought to bear on countries which use this unjustifiable penalty: and especially on those which use public and the more barbaric forms of execution.
Again from what appears to be the authoritative source of Amnesty International, here is a list of some of the methods:
- beheading (in Saudi Arabia, Iraq);
- electrocution (in US);
- hanging (in Egypt, Iran, Japan, Jordan, Pakistan, Singapore and other countries);
- lethal injection (in China, Guatemala, Philippines, Thailand, US);
- shooting (in Belarus, China, Somalia, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and other countries); and
- stoning (in Afghanistan, Iran).
One of the most despicable of practices is the execution of minors. Again Amnesty tell us:
Eight countries since 1990 are known to have executed prisoners who were under 18-years-old at the time of the crime - China, Congo (Democratic Republic), Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, USA and Yemen.
While China, Pakistan and Yemen have abolished the death penalty for those under 18, the US has executed approximately one a year since 1990. In 2004 there were three in Iran and one in China; and in Iran, six in 2005. All figures are taken from the referenced Amnesty website.
The Amnesty focus is mostly on the US, and information on some other regions, notably Africa, is sparse. It appears Amnesty has an anti-US bias and it is amply demonstrated later. However as at 2005, again from Amnesty, the following countries in Africa still retain and use the death penalty:
Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Congo (Democratic Republic), Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Lesotho, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
No statistics are supplied. However, and for the anti-US brigade, on this site there is a comment and a link to a site critical of the US for the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
A report on an African news site, Afrol News, predictably states the obvious: “Numbers for Africa were very (sic) unsure ...”
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