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Report finds execution rate up in Middle East

March 31st, 2012

It appears the Arab spring which hit the Middle East last year has caused a surge in executions in the region as well.  A newly released Amnesty International report suggests “a surge of executions in the Middle East has pushed up the known worldwide toll.”

The Amnesty report asserted that the rate of executions rose significantly in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen and Iran in 2011.

According to the London-based group, around 676 executions are known to have taken place in 20 countries in 2011, an increase from 2010 which saw around 527 executions in 23 countries.

The group also noted that only 20 out of 198 countries carried out executions in 2011; a drop of more than a third of the total number of countries in the last decade.

However, the report also suggests that China alone has carried out more executions than all the other countries combined. It is hard to get an exact number on the executions taking place in China since it is a state secret.  Nevertheless, Amnesty asserts that the numbers are in the thousands.

The group also notes that “an increasingly isolated group of countries executed at an alarming rate in 2011.”

The majority of those countries are in the Middle East.

Most Middle Eastern states use the Islamic Shariah law as a source for their legislations which allows for executions of convicted individuals.

In its annual death penalty report, Amnesty confirmed that 558 executions took place in the Middle East in 2011, a rise by almost 50 percent from 2010.

The report also suggests that the actual number of executions could be a lot higher as many cases go unreported.

“The numbers don’t include the thousands of executions worldwide that go unreported,” Jan Wetzel, an Amnesty death penalty specialist, said in an interview.

Even though Iran and Saudi Arabia did not fall prey to the Arab spring, they top the list of practitioners of the death penalty in the Middle East.

Amnesty has confirmed that last year 360 executions took place in Iran.

However, according to Amnesty, the group received information from credible sources suggesting that there are more than 200 executions that went unreported in Iran last year as well.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia tripled the number of its execution in 2011. The government of Saudi Arabia imposed the death sentence on criminals charged with a wide range of offenses that included robbery, kidnapping, murder and drug-related charges.

What may or may not seem surprising to many, the United States ranked fifth on the Amnesty list with 43 executions in 2011, down from 46 year in 2010.

“If you look at the company we’re in globally, it’s not the company we want to be in: China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq,” Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA, told The Associated Press.