Friday, October 10, 2008

10/10: World Day Against the Death Penalty

Today, October 10, is the world day against the death penalty. New Zealand has abolished the death penalty, but 60 countries still retain it. Today is the day we work to change that.

This year the focus is on Asia. Out of 37 countries in Asia, only 9 have abolished the death penalty (3 more retain it only for military crimes, while 7 observe a practical moratorium). But those are mostly small countries. 95% of the population of Asia live in states which practice judicial murder, and 85 - 95% of the world's executions are carried out in Asia. Last year, that included at least 470 in China, 317 in Iran, 143 in Saudi Arabia and 135 in Pakistan. Because many of those countries refuse to publish statistics and carry out executions in secret, the true figures are almost certainly much higher.

The World Coalition is particularly targeting Japan, where prisoners are not informed of their executions until a few hours beforehand; Pakistan, where defendants do not even receive a fair trial before being sentenced to death, and may be executed for "crimes" such as blasphemy; Vietnam, which executes people for nonviolent offences such as smuggling, forgery and bribery; and Taiwan, India and South Korea, all of whom have moratoriums they are being urged to make permanent. Some of these are tiny steps. But they will help. You can sign the online petition demanding them here. Amnesty International New Zealand has a few other suggestions here.