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Saturday, 30 November, 2002, 13:39 GMT
Execution denounced in world protest
The Colosseum lit up after an execution order is overturned
The Colosseum lights up if an execution is overturned
A coalition of international human rights organisations is calling on countries around the world to abolish capital punishment in the first World Day Against the Death Penalty.

Sixty cities around the world are marking the occasion by illuminating significant landmarks.

The coalition, which has come together under the banner Together Against the Death Penalty, wants to bring pressure on nations like China and the United States, where the death penalty is still widely used.

China capital crimes
Violent crime
Drugs offences
Separatism
Aiding Tibet border crossings
Bribery
Pimping
Embezzlement
Tax fraud
Insurance fraud
Stealing petrol
Selling harmful foodstuffs
Disrupting the stock market
The event was inspired by the city of Rome, which lights up the Colosseum when an execution order is overturned or a country abolishes capital punishment.

Cities taking part include Paris, London, New York, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, as well as Rome and other cities across Italy.

Barcelona will light up its famous cathedral, Santiago plans to illuminate central park, while Belgium will light up its Atomium structure, with a dove of peace on the top.

The coalition chose 30 November as the inaugural date, the anniversary of the first occasion the death penalty was abolished, said to have been in Tuscany, in 1786.

Forced confessions

China is one of the main targets of the first World Day Against the Death Penalty.

An execution chamber in Texas
The US has been particularly attacked for its execution of youths
According to human rights group Amnesty International, China last year executed at least 2,468 people - more than the other countries combined.

Although China does not issue precise figures, the number of people executed in the People's Republic has grown rapidly since it began an anti-crime drive last year.

Amnesty says many of the cases are miscarriages of justice.

"Many of the defendants are illiterate and they come from a low social status so often they don't know their legal rights," said Dominique Muller, an Amnesty spokeswoman.

"There's still no real pressure to stop police from torturing people to get confessions and hence to get convictions," she said.

The Chinese Government says its priority is tackling growing levels of serious crime, and the death penalty cannot be abolished until crime rates come down.

Mass executions

According to Amnesty, at least 3,000 people were executed in 31 countries across the world last year.


The death penalty is an instrument of the past

Mario Marazziti, Together Against the Death Penalty
Next to China, Iran had the second-highest tally of executions in 2001, putting to death at least 139 people, Amnesty said.

Saudi Arabia was third with 79 executions, and the United States followed, having put 66 people to death, the organisation said.

However, there has also been progress in the campaign to eliminate the use of the death penalty, Amnesty said, with an average of three countries a year abolishing capital punishment over the past three years.

Mario Marazziti, a spokesman for Together Against the Death Penalty, said international day was meant to remind the world that "the death penalty is an instrument of the past, like torture and slavery".

See also:

02 Oct 02 | Americas
25 Sep 02 | Americas
09 Sep 02 | Africa
24 Jun 02 | Americas
10 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
11 Jun 01 | Americas
06 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
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