Amnesty International released its annual review of death sentences and executions around the world. The review found the five biggest executors in 2012 were China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the USA. It also found that the number of countries that abolished the death penalty rose to 97 and progress toward abolition of the death penalty was made in “all regions of the world.”
The human rights organization reported, “In the Americas, the USA remains the only country to carry out executions.” A total number of 43 executions—the same in 2011, occurred. Though, “Only nine states executed in 2012, compared to 13 in 2011.” And, ”Connecticut became the 17th abolitionist state in April, while a referendum on the abolition of the death penalty was narrowly defeated in California in November.”
The continued use of the death penalty in the United States puts the nation in a group with other countries it would typically condemn vociferously for not respecting human rights in order to advance its foreign policy agenda. The other point worth making is that two countries that are executing people are both countries that have been invaded and occupied by US forces in the past decade.
“There was an alarming rise in Iraq’s use of the death penalty,” according to Amnesty Internationl. “At least 129 people were put to death – almost double the 2011 figure of 68.” It was the “highest figure since 2005.” The government executed people on a greater scale than the Palestinian Authority (the Hamas authorities in Gaza).
…Executions were often carried out in batches, with up to 34 in a single day. At least five women were executed, and at least two were sentenced to death. Amnesty International recorded at least 81 new death sentences in total, but the real figure is possibly in the hundreds. According to government statistics, death sentences numbered between 250 and 600 in each of the previous five years. Most death sentences are imposed for terrorism-related offenses, others for murder. All death sentences are automatically reviewed by Iraq’s Court of Cassation, and then need to be ratified by the presidency before an execution can be carried out. Hundreds of people remained on death row with ratified death sentences; they could be executed at any time…
…Many trials of those sentenced to death failed to meet international standards for fair trials, including the use of “confessions” obtained under torture and other ill-treatment. Defendants described how they suffered systematic torture while in detention, including being beaten with cables, burned on the face with cigarettes, and given electric shocks to the hands, wrists, fingers, ankles and feet, or were left in a room with water on the floor while an electric current was applied to the water. But courts continued to include “confessions,” even if formally withdrawn, as part of the evidence when handing down a sentence. Some Iraqi television stations broadcast these self-incriminating “confessions” before the opening of a trial…
The death penalty was not in force when US forces invaded Iraq, It was reinstated in August 2004 and at least 447 prisoners have been executed since that reinstatement. Many of them have been put to death under the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2005, which was passed under US occupation.
Post-US invasion of Iraq, this is what the government of Iraq does to its people. It carries out an increasing number of executions—in addition to torturing an alarming number of its citizens as well.
A previous report on a “decade of abuses” in Iraq, also by Amnesty International, showed juvenile offenders are being put on death row and so are individuals who committed “non-lethal crimes.”
Afghanistan, which remains under occupation by US and NATO forces, is one of eight countries executing the most people in the world.
It executed 14 prisoners. They were executed over a period of two days in November of last year and, when they occurred, Amnesty International reacted:
…This rush to execute so many prompts the question – why now? In recent years, the Afghan government had avoided executions. [President Hamid] Karzai is certainly under some pressure now to demonstrate he can maintain the rule of law in Afghanistan, and advance reconciliation talks with the Taleban. Could these executions be more about political gain than justice?”
The death penalty is deplorable under any circumstance, and even more troubling given the seriously flawed Afghan justice system. Detainees are frequently tortured into confessions then relied upon by a judiciary that has little to no independence. Meanwhile serious human rights violations go unpunished. There is simply no guarantee of a fair trial…
Karzai finds he needs to prove to the US government that he can maintain law and order so Afghan military and security forces can take over control of a country that has been occupied by foreign forces waging war for twelve years. Similarly, when taking over control of the notorious Bagram prison where torture and abuse by US interrogators has been known to occur, Karzai agreed to continue to hold a certain number of prisoners in detention indefinitely without charge or trial.
Incidentally, Pakistan, where drone strikes carried out by the CIA have been occurring, resumed the use of executions last year. Yemen executed at least 28 people. The country, where US counterterrorism operations including drone strikes have escalated under President Barack Obama, had the sixth highest amount of executions (right behind the US).
The executions were typically “carried out by shooting, with the executioner firing directly at the heart at close range.” Death sentences can be imposed for drug offenses and even for having “consensual heterosexual and same-sex sexual intercourse” with a “married person, if the act is not with the spouse.” Also, “communicating” with “foreign countries” is a capital crime as well.
These countries where the US is carrying and has carried out global operations all seem to adopt the use of the death penalty and begin to rely on use after US involvement. It is not being used to impose justice but to control the populations of these countries, where there are dissident and/or insurgent groups that these countries’ governments wish to defeat or suppress.
A number of these groups have become increasingly militant and violent as a result of US intervention in their countries. Thus, it appears what the US leaves behind after occupying a country is forces the government must confront that have been inflamed by what these groups would probably call the presence of imperialists.
The US supported an intervention in Libya in 2011 and “the judicial system resumed operations in 2012 and imposed at least five death sentences.” Though no judicial executions were reported, it is not unreasonable to suspect there will be some in Libya this year. Aspects of totalitarianism are to be encouraged by the US and other Western countries so that it appears war had the desired effect and peace is now possible—even if the reality is an uptick in state-sanctioned brutality.