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01 Apr 2015 16:03
The number of people sentenced to death in Africa more than doubled between 2013 and 2014, according to Amnesty International's Death Sentences and Executions 2014 report released on April 1.
At least 1 444 death sentences were imposed in 2014 in Africa, up from 605 in 2013.
Globally, at least 2 466 people received death sentences, which means Africa accounted for 60% of the world total — if China is excluded.
China carries out more executions than the rest of the world put together and thousands are thought to be sentenced to death there every year, said Amnesty International in its 2014 report. But the numbers are kept a state secret.
In Africa, two countries are responsible for the spike in the number of death sentences in 2014: Nigeria and Egypt.
Both registered increases of more than 350% in the number handed down from 2013 to 2014. In Nigeria the numbers rose from at least 141 to 659 in Egypt from at least 109 to 509.
Amnesty International attributes the "alarming rise" to governments attempting to combat crime and terrorism.
The Nigerian government, in particular, has been waging an on-going battle with Islamast group Boko Haram.
Military courts there handed down mass death sentences against about 70 soldiers who were convicted of mutiny in 2014, said the human rights organisation.
Egyptian courts also handed down mass death sentences in mass trials during 2014.
“The dark trend of governments using the death penalty in a futile attempt to tackle real or imaginary threats to state security and public safety was stark last year," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary general, in a press release.
"It is shameful that so many states around the world are essentially playing with people’s lives – putting people to death for ‘terrorism’ or to quell internal instability on the ill-conceived premise of deterrence.
“Governments using the death penalty to tackle crime are deluding themselves. There is no evidence that shows the threat of execution is more of a deterrent to crime than any other punishment,” said Shetty.
On a more positive note, the number of people executed in Africa dropped slightly: from at least 64 in 2013 to at least 61 in 2014. Only four countries carried out executions in that year.
The drop in the number of executions in Africa mirrors a global reduction in the number of executions, from at least 778 in 2013 to at least 607 in 2014.
Several countries also took steps towards abolishing the death penalty, Amnesty International reported.
Sixteen African countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes as of December 2014: Angola, Burundi, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa and Togo.
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