Friday, December 10, 2004

5,000 execution in China...that's a lotta rice....

BEIJING -- China carried out nearly 90 per cent of the world's executions last year, putting at least 5,000 people to death, according to an activist group campaigning to end capital punishment.

China is one of 60 countries that still have the death penalty, the Rome-based group Hands Off Cain said in a report issued Friday. It said other governments carried out more than 500 executions.

China's government relies heavily on the death penalty in effort to reassure the public that it is taking action against corruption and rising crime. People are executed for crimes ranging from murder and rape to tax fraud, petty theft and other nonviolent offences.

The figure given by Hands Off Cain for China's executions is higher than those reported by other human rights groups.

Amnesty International said in April that China put 726 people to death last year - nearly two-thirds of all executions reported. But it said that figure was based on incomplete official information and the true number was believed to be much higher.

Iran had the second-highest number of known executions worldwide in 2003 with 154, according to Hands Off Cain. It said that as a proportion of its smaller population, the Islamic Republic "applies capital punishment just as much as China."

Iraq executed at least 113 people before Saddam Hussein's government was toppled April 9, 2003, the group said. The death penalty was suspended during the U.S. administration but restored by the interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

Vietnam executed at least 69 people, while the United States put to death 65 people and Saudi Arabia carried out 52 executions, according to Hands Off Cain.

China's Foreign Ministry said earlier this year that the country lacked "conditions to abolish the death penalty." It insisted that Chinese courts were "prudent in the use" of executions.

China has tried in recent years to improve professional standards in its courts. But activists complain that penalties are not applied consistently and that in the midst of anti-crime campaigns, prisoners often can be sentenced to death for offences that weren't capital crimes at the time they were committed.

Under Chinese law, death sentences are automatically appealed, though reversals are rare. Chinese courts use both gunshot and lethal injection and reportedly has executed convicts for offences committed when they were as young as 16.