Number of executions: Officially, at least 1,010 in 2006, but some estimates put this figure as high as 15,000
Capital crimes: Almost 70 listed offenses in China qualify for the death penalty. Committing murder will get you executed, but so might economic crimes such as tax evasion, smuggling, and corruptionnot to mention the activities of various political and religious dissidents put to death. Guangdong Province recently even listed bag-snatching by motorists as a capital offense, and in July, the former head of Chinas State Food and Drug Administration was executed for taking bribes.
Prospects for abolition: Miniscule. Last year, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said that China had no plans to repeal capital punishment, citing widespread public approval of the practice. China accounted for more than 60 percent of all officially reported executions worldwide in 2006. Nonetheless, as many as 40 percent fewer people have been executed since Beijing was awarded the 2008 Olympics in 2001, a decline no doubt linked to Chinas efforts to polish its global image. The drop in executions has created at least one unexpected problem, though: a shortage of kidneys in South Korea.
Number of executions: 177 in 2006, but the 2007 figure is expected to be roughly 250
Capital crimes: Offenses include drug smuggling, armed robbery, murder, sexual offenses (including consensual adultery, homosexuality, and prostitution), blasphemy, and political violence
Prospects for abolition: Dim and dimmer. In October 2007, the European Parliament voiced alarm at the dramatically increased rate of executions in the country. Irans leaders are not even willing to place a ban on the death penalty for children. Iran has executed far more child offenders since 1990 than any other country and continues to execute prisoners by stoningdespite a 2002 moratorium announced by the judiciary. And although President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the existence of homosexuals in Iran, this denial has not stopped his country from executing them, often by public hanging.
Number of executions: 82 in 2006
Capital crimes: Offenses include murder, robbery, hijacking, arms trading, drug smuggling and trafficking, rape, child smuggling, blasphemy, and sexual relations between non-married partners
Prospects for abolition: Slim. Pakistan has more people waiting to be executed than any other country: Almost a third of the worlds 24,000 death row inmates are in Pakistan, often held in squalid and overcrowded conditions. Along with Iran, Pakistan is one of the few remaining countries that still allow minors to be sentenced to death. Even though President Pervez Musharraf issued a decree in December 2001 commuting all juvenile death sentences to life terms, juvenile executions have still not been completely eliminated. Pakistan has no intention of abolishing the death penalty for adults, either. Earlier this year, Pakistans then interior minister, Aftab Khan Sherpao, dismissed calls to end capital punishment in the country, arguing, We have our own laws, inherited from British times and they are applied very judiciously. We feel that the death sentence is a deterrent, without it maybe there would be more cases of serious crimes like murders.
Number of executions: At least 65 in 2006, including Saddam Hussein
Capital crimes: Offenses include murder, kidnapping, rape, drug offenses, and threats to national security, including provoking terrorism
Prospects for abolition: Possible, but unlikely. President Jalal Talabani opposes the death penalty, but he and his allies are just a small minority. The interim Iraqi government reinstated capital punishment in August 2004 after a brief ban imposed by the Coalition Provisional Authority. Since then, at least 270 people have been sentenced to death and more than 100 people have been hanged. Iraqs leaders are still debating the execution of three former prominent members of Saddam Husseins regime, including Chemical Ali, who were sentenced to death for their role in killing as many as 180,000 Kurds in 1988. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has accused the United States of stalling, but U.S. officials maintain they are waiting for consensus within the Iraqi leadership before handing over the men.
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The United States
Number of executions: 53 people in 2006 and 42 people in 2007. In 2006, the United States replaced Saudi Arabia and moved behind Sudan as the country with the sixth-highest number of executions. (Saudi Arabia will rejoin the top six this year, with more than 130 people beheaded already in 2007.)
Capital crimes: The United States is one of only two developed countries (along with Japan) to still carry out executions. Death sentences in the United States are generally handed down only for murder, although a number of states include the rape of a child, treason, and other non-murder crimes as capital offenses
Prospects for abolition: Better than ever beforeNew Jersey has just voted to abolish capital punishment, the first state to do so in more than 40 yearsbut still unlikely. The last execution in the United States took place September 25 this year. Since then, there has been an effective moratorium on executions until the Supreme Court rules on Baze v. Rees, a death-penalty case scheduled for January that will decide the constitutionality of the three-drug cocktail commonly used in lethal injections. Thirty-five of the 36 states with the death penalty use this method. But growing problems with lethal injectionincluding an execution last year that took 34 minutes for the prisoner to die, and another in which the prisoner was able say, Its not workinghave led the Supreme Court to consider whether it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.