At least 1032 people were executed worldwide in 2016, while at least 3117 were sentenced to death, according to Amnesty International's global report released on Tuesday.

The figures, while alarming, are considerably less than the reality because they exclude the thousands of executions believed to have taken place in China.

This secrecy continues to plague some countries in Southeast Asia.

Like China, Amnesty says Vietnam continues to classify figures on the death penalty as state secrets.

However, according to the report, new information obtained this year reveal executions have been carried out at a higher rate than previously understood.

In February 2017, Vietnam media reported statistics by the ministry of public security showing 429 people had been executed between August 2013 and June 2016, at an average rate of 147 executions a year.

"(This) placed Vietnam over a three-year period as effectively the third-biggest executioner in the world," Amnesty International's deputy director of global issues, James Lynch, told AAP, putting it behind China and Iran.

The figures raise as many questions as they answer - with no context provided as to what people were executed for, when they took place or the details of their cases' legal proceedings.

"Secrecy is a huge concern, not only Vietnam but also Malaysia ... when new information comes to light it is disturbing, the number of executions were higher again than people had expected. The size of death row was higher than expected," Mr Lynch said.

"There needs to be a much more structured program of transparency about the imposition of the death penalty to allow for a more informed debate."

Also of concern in the region were calls by the Philippines government to reintroduce the death penalty as a measure to tackle crime and threats to national security.

It's a step backward for Southeast Asia, where the Philippines has been a key abolitionist.

By Lauren Farrow - Australian Associated Press - April 11, 2017


Vietnam, China hiding deadly secret on execution figures, Amnesty International reveal

It has become a popular tourist hotspot for intrepid Australians with idyllic beaches, historic sites and a rich yet brutal history.

But behind the picture perfect postcards and scenery, Vietnam has been hiding a deadly secret from the world.

The Asian nation has been named and shamed in Amnesty International’s 2016 global review of the death penalty report for its shockingly high execution rate.

Figures reveal Vietnam executed 429 people between 6 August 2013 and 30 June 2016.

However the figures obtained from Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, and which recently came to light, do not contain a breakdown of figures for 2016.

Only China, which killed at least 3000, and Iran, 567, executed more people during the same period.

Amnesty International’s secretary-general Salil Shetty said the Vietnamese figures were appalling and questioned what the nation was hiding by not revealing how many people it executed last year.

“The magnitude of executions in Vietnam in recent years is truly shocking,” he said.

“This conveyor belt of executions completely overshadows recent death penalty reforms.

“You have to wonder how many more people have faced the death penalty without the world knowing it.”

Like China, data on the use of the death penalty in Vietnam is classified as a state secret.

Little or no information was also available on other countries including Laos, North Korea, Syria and Yemen.

The Death Sentences and Executions 2016 report also singled out Malaysia where parliamentary pressure last year led to revelations that more than a thousand people are on death row, with nine people executed in 2016.

The eye-opening report revealed that 1032 recorded executions took place worldwide in 2016, down 37 per cent compared to the year before with 1634 people killed.

The report found Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan joined China as world’s top five executioners in 2016, not taking into account Vietnam’s unknown figures for the year.

It revealed the methods of execution included beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.

'Misleading' China

The Asian powerhouse was once again singled out as the world’s biggest executioner, with the human rights group conservatively estimating at least 1000 were killed last year alone.

It said secrecy surrounding death penalty figures and transparency made accurate figures difficult to determine.

An Amnesty International’s investigation revealed hundreds of documented death penalty cases are missing from a national online court database that was initially touted as a “crucial step towards openness”.

Beijing also uses the database as evidence that the country’s judicial system has nothing to hide.

However Amnesty said the database contains only a tiny fraction of the thousands of death sentences that it estimates are handed out every year in China.

Amnesty found public news reports of at least 931 individuals executed between 2014 and 2016.

But — of those, only 85 were listed in the state database, leading to questions as to why the others weren’t listed.

The human rights group also said the database does not include foreign nationals given death sentences for drug-related crimes — with media reports revealing at least 11 executions took place last year.

“The Chinese government uses partial disclosures and unverifiable assertions to claim progress in reducing the number of executions yet at the same time maintains near absolute secrecy. This is deliberately misleading.” Mr Shetty said.

“China is a complete outlier in the world community when it comes to the death penalty, out of step with international legal standards and in contravention with repeated UN requests to report how many people it executes.”

Amnesty also said the risk of people being executed for crimes they did not commit has caused increasing alarm among Chinese citizens and highlighted several cases of wrongful conviction as proof the system was seriously flawed.

Last December, the Supreme People’s Court overturned the wrongful conviction of Nie Shubin who was executed 21 years earlier, at the age of 20. Chinese courts also decided four people facing the death penalty were innocent and quashed their death sentences last year.

'Eye opening report'

Speaking to news.com.au, Amnesty’s Individuals at Risk Program Coordinator Rose Kolak said while the number of executions worldwide were down, this year’s report was still alarming.

“Just over 1000 people executed this year is down compared to more than 1600 executed last year, but it’s still over 1000 people too many,” she said.

Ms Kolak said Vietnam’s execution figures over the last few years was particularly concerning and also singled out China over its lack of transparency.

She said there were still 46 crimes which Chinese people could be executed for ranging from bribery to counterfeit.

“Vietnam is in our region and is somewhere Australians go on holidays,” she said.

She said the fact that Vietnam has executed people under our noses should ring alarm bells and argued the state secret excuse for not revealing its execution figures was flawed.

“The state secret excuse is a way of not allowing anyone to know what’s happening,” she said.

“It’s deliberate cold-blooded killing by a government in its name and it’s not justice but vengeance.

“Governments are choosing to kill and execute that’s the bottom line.”

The United States also raised concerns in the report.

While noting its execution figures had dropped to 20 last year, Ms Kolak highlighted how a “killing spree” is set to take place in the US state of Arkansas.

Eight people are set to be executed at the end of the month before drugs used in lethal injections expired.

“That’s eight doses of a three-drug administration that have to be used before they expire at the end of this month,” she said.

“It just goes to show the level of callousness we are talking about.”

Ms Kolak said there was no evidence to suggest that the death penalty was a deterrent to committing crime in the countries which had the death penalty.

She said Canada had abolished the death penalty in the 1970s and its homicide figures had since halved.

“Amnesty has been campaigning for an end to the death penalty for more than 40 years and 104 countries have abolished it during this time,” she said.

Ms Kolak said Amnesty wanted to see the death penalty abolished globally and the death penalty remained a cruel and inhumane form of punishment.

By Debra Killalea - News.com.au - April 11, 2017