US protesters call for an end to the death penalty outside the Supreme Court US protesters call for an end to the death penalty outside the Supreme Court  (2021 Getty Images)

Amnesty International: 53% rise of executions in past year

A new Amnesty International report depicts the rise in executions, in countries in which facts are shared, from 2021 to 2022.

By Francesca Merlo

Amnesty International has released a report stating that a total of 883 people are known to have been put to death across 20 countries, in 2022, marking a rise of 53% compared to 2021.

The figures exclude some countries that are thought to carry out executions but where figures are unavailable because data on the death penalty is classified.

The rights group was also able to confirm that executions were carried out in North Korea, Vietnam, Syria and Afghanistan, but said there was insufficient information to provide credible minimum figures.

Of the countries with known figures, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt alone carried out 90% of 883 known executions.

These figures, however, exclude China, which is thought to execute thousands each year.

According to Amnesty's report, Iran and Saudi Arabia were mainly responsible for the sharp increase in known executions worldwide last year. Iran allegedly killed 576 people, up from 314 in 2021. Of these, 279 people were convicted of murder, 255 of drug-related offences, 21 of rape, and 18 of the national security charge of "enmity against God".

The final category included two men who were detained in connection with the anti-government protests that erupted in the Islamic Republic in September.

In Saudi Arabia, executions tripled from 65 in 2021 to 196 in 2022. Of these, eighty-five people were killed after being convicted of terrorism offences and 57 for drug offences.

Elsewhere, in Egypt, 24 people were put to death last year. However, that represented a 71% decrease compared to 2021, when 83 were executed.

Amnesty also reported 11 executions in Iraq, 7 in Kuwait, 5 in the Palestinian Territories, 4 in Yemen and an unknown amount in Syria. 18 people were executed in the US, up from 11 in 2022, and 11 were put to death in Singapore, where executions for drug offences resumed after a two-year hiatus during the Covid pandemic.

The Church vs Death Penalty

In 2018, Pope Francis approved a new revision of paragraph number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, according to which “a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state,”  thus “the death penalty is inadmissible”.

It reads as such:

2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes.  In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state.  Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”,[1] and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide”.

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16 May 2023, 16:02