27 April 2007

Progress in strange packages

Sometimes progress is illustrated by dark statistics, but it is progress nonetheless. This is how I felt reading that the world's execution rate was down in 2006. According to Amnesty International's annual report on the death penalty, at least 1,591 people were executed last year, down from 2,148 in 2005, a quite significant decline.

The Islamic world cannot be proud of the fact that the only four countries bucking the trend -- Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Pakistan -- were all Muslim. China led the field as usual, killing 1,101 of its citizens. This, however, could be a gross underestimate as China does not reveal official statistics. Amnesty suggests the toll may be as high as 8,000.

The Philippines became the 99th country to abolish the death penalty for ordinary crimes. In 1977, only 16 countries were abolitionist.

Amnesty International is calling for a universal moratorium on execution.
"The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment," said Secretary General Irene Khan. "It must be abolished and a universal moratorium will be an important step forward."

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