Report: China Factor Drives Worldwide Executions to Double

WASHINGTON — China executed more people than any other country in 2008 as the number executions worldwide almost doubled, according to a leading international human rights organization.

The number of people executed around the world increased from approximately 1,250 persons in 2007 to at least 2,390 persons in 2008, according to Amnesty International’s annual death penalty report. More than 8,860 people in 52 countries around the world were sentenced to death in 2008, up from more than 3,340 in 2007.

China was responsible for more than 70 percent of all executions, carrying out 1,718 death sentences last year. Chinese authorities also issued more than 7,000 new death sentences during the last 12 months.

The report likely underestimates by a significant amount the actual number of executions and death sentences in China because capital punishment statistics are classified as state secrets by the government there, according to the international watchdog.

Iran carried out 346 death sentences, the second-highest number of executions in 2008, followed by Saudi Arabia (102), the United States (37) and Pakistan (36), according to the report.

The five leading countries accounted for 93 percent of executions worldwide as only 25 of the 59 countries that maintain capital punishment statutes carried out executions last year, officials say.

The United States is the only country among the leading nations on the death penalty list to publish statistics on the use of capital punishment. The remaining death penalty statistics contained in Amnesty International’s annual report are estimates based on reports from media and rights groups and official statements.

Capital punishment methods range from China’s use of lethal injection to death by hanging in Iraq and Japan, firing squad in Afghanistan and Vietnam, beheading in Saudi Arabia, and stoning in Iran, according to the report.