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Last Updated: Friday, 27 April 2007, 10:29 GMT 11:29 UK
Pakistan 'tops death row league'
President Musharraf
Amnesty urged President Musharraf to ban executions
Pakistan has more people imprisoned facing execution than any other country in the world, human rights group Amnesty International says.

Nearly a third of the world's 24,000 death row prisoners are in Pakistan - "often held in extremely over-crowded conditions", Amnesty says.

Its annual report on the death penalty said the number of people executed in 2006 fell by 25%, compared with 2005.

But Pakistan was one of a few countries where executions rose sharply.

Pakistan's interior minister has dismissed any suggestion of abolishing the death penalty.

'Grim toll'

The Amnesty report said that at least 1,591 people had been executed in 25 countries last year, compared with 2,148 people in 2005.

Capital punishment is always cruel and unnecessary and doesn't deter crime
Kate Allen,
Amnesty International

It said the vast majority of those executed in 2006 were in China (1,010), followed by Iran (177), Pakistan (82), Iraq (65), Sudan (65) and the US (53).

The figure in Pakistan had nearly trebled from 31 the previous year, Amnesty said.

The group's UK Director, Kate Allen, said: "Last year saw a slight drop in execution numbers but it was another grim death toll around the world.

"We are particularly concerned about a disturbing 'revival' of executions in countries like Iraq, Sudan and Pakistan.

"We urgently need to see 'death penalty governments' issuing bans on all imminent executions, especially President Musharraf in Pakistan."

However, Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao told the BBC: "We have our own laws, inherited from British times and they are applied very judiciously.

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"We feel that the death sentence is a deterrent, without it maybe there would be more cases of serious crimes like murders."

Amnesty says 91% of all executions take place in the six countries listed above. Many are sentenced after torture and unfair trials, the group says.

Amnesty says that more than 7,200 people are on death row in Pakistan, a figure which was roughly similar six months ago.

But the sharp jump in numbers of people being executed makes this a particularly deadly combination, the group says.

It criticised death row conditions in Pakistan.

"In some cases 12 death row prisoners are reportedly being held in 4m-by-3m cells designed for one person," the group said.

It said wealthier convicts were often able to escape execution under laws which allow relatives of murder victims to accept compensation and pardon the offender.

Trend 'down'

Amnesty said its execution figures were "minimum only" and that countries like China killed far more people than official statistics showed.
Mirza Tahir Hussain speaks to BBC Asian Network
Briton Mirza Tahir Hussain spent years on Pakistan's death row

But the report did note new safeguards in China meaning that all death sentences now had to be approved by China's Supreme People's Court.

And it said "the underlying global trend is towards less frequent usage and lower numbers of death sentences being imposed".

To date 128 countries had abolished the death penalty, with the Philippines the latest of 30 states to do so in the past 10 years.

"While 69 countries still retain the punishment less than half that number are currently carrying out executions," the report said.

Executions map 2006




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