Amnesty International Tuesday released its annual Report on Death Sentences and Executions which noted a sharp increase in executions in Iran and Saudi Arabia while describing global use of the death penalty between January and December 2021.
The report reflects that there was a rise in executions and death sentences in 2021 after Covid-19 restrictions were loosened. From 2020 to 2021, there have been approximately 579 executions carried out in 18 countries, a 20% rise in the total death sentences recorded in 2020. Out of 579, 314 individuals were executed in Iran because of an increase in drug trafficking. Saudi Arabia also increased its number of executions last year, an increase that preceded a day in 2022 with 81 individual executions. In 2022 alone, Saudi Arabia has carried out 92 executions so far.
The report highlights the halted executions of two Bahraini Shi’a men, Jaafar Sultan and Sadeq Thamer, in Saudi Arabia. They both were arrested in 2015 and were held incommunicado in solitary confinement for three and half months. They were only able to contact their families after 115 days provided that they did not discuss their confinement conditions. After a “grossly unfair” trial, Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court sentenced them to death in 2021 on the charges of smuggling explosive materials in Saudi Arabia and involvement in anti-government protests in Bahrain. Their executions are awaiting the King of Saudi Arabia’s ratification. The report reflects that throughout their pre-trial detention, they were not provided with any access to legal representation and were tortured to provide confessions.
Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General criticized the state sanctions executions in Iran and Saudi Arabia:
After the drop in their execution totals in 2020, Iran and Saudi Arabia once again ramped up their use of the death penalty last year, including by shamelessly violating prohibitions put in place under international human rights law. Their appetite for putting the executioner to work has also shown no sign of abating in the early months of 2022.
The report further highlighted the use of the death penalty as a mechanism for state repression against minorities and protestors. In Myanmar, the authority to adjudicate civilian cases was transferred to military tribunals, which adjudicated proceedings without the right to appeal. Approximately 90 individuals were sentenced to death, mostly journalists and protestors. In Egypt authorities retained torture and mass executions as a result of trials before Emergency State Security Courts, which Amnesty International deems unfair. In Iran authorities employed death sentences against ethnic minorities on broad charges including ‘enmity against god’. In approximately 19% of the executions, 61 individuals belonged to the Baluchi ethnic minority.
The report also discusses how execution and death sentences, public executions, unfair trials, and confessions taken under torture violated the International Law.