53 percent rise in global executions in 2022: Amnesty report

The latest report from Amnesty International, an international human rights-oriented non-governmental organisation, reported a considerable rise in global executions in 2022 after 883 people were executed last year.

This was an increase of 53 percent from 2021, with Amnesty International saying the figures could be higher as some countries did not make their execution data available.

According to the report titled ‘Death Sentences and Executions 2022,’ the sharp rise in executions was led by countries in the Middle East and North Africa, where recorded figures rose from 520 in 2021 to 825 in 2022. 

In Zimbabwe, no executions have taken place since July 2005 although the Constitution allows the death penalty to be imposed for murder.

According to Amnesty International, there were 61 Zimbabweans known to be on death row by the end of 2022.

The last executions in Zimbabwe were that of the infamous Stephen Chidhumo and Edmund Edgar Masendeke who were hanged in 2002 while the country’s last hangman reportedly retired in 2005.

Despite the post being vacant for more than a decade after the hangman’s retirement, there was a “flood” of applications, with two women apparently among the candidates, with observers claiming the high interest was due to Zimbabwe’s lack of jobs.

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has always been opposed to the death penalty and stated he will not authorise any executions while citizens had conflicting sentiments about the death sentence at public consultations held by the Justice, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs Portfolio Committee in March this year, with some advocating for its implementation and others believing it violates human rights. 

Section 48(2) of Zimbabwe’s Constitution states that the death sentence may be inflicted only on those guilty of murder committed in aggravating circumstances and there are limits to such a law:

The court must have discretion on whether or not to impose the death penalty; Only men between the ages of 21 and 70 may be sentenced to death; The death penalty cannot be imposed on women and a person sentenced to death must have the right to ask the president to pardon him or alter his sentence.

According to Statute Law, Section 47 of the Criminal Law Code says that persons convicted of murder may be sentenced to death if the murder was committed in aggravating circumstances, and the section goes on to lay down what circumstances must be regarded as aggravating that is the murder was committed in the course of rape or housebreaking or if the victims was tortured.

Section 337 to 342 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act set out the procedure to be followed when the High Court sentences someone to death. Section 339(2) says that where the death penalty is carried out the person sentenced must be hanged by the neck until he is dead

However, it is important to note that Zimbabwe’s Constitution does not say that the law must provide for the death penalty and does not say that people convicted of aggravated murder must be sentenced to death.

It is up to Parliament to decide whether or not a law should include the death sentence, which is why these public consultations were held.

Zimbabwe can abolish the death sentence if Parliament approves legislation amending Section 47 of the Criminal Law Code and abolishing Sections 337 and 342 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. 

The country’s constitution does not have to be amended.

According to an Amnesty International report, it is estimated 90 percent of the executions held outside of China were performed in Iran which had 576 executions, up from 314, Saudi Arabia performed 196 executions up from 65 while Egypt saw 24 executions.

Amnesty International said  Iran had the sharpest rise than any other country in three decades, tripling its executions.

Of the 576 people allegedly killed by the Iranian government, 279 were convicted of murder, 255 of drug-related offences, 21 of rape, and 18 of the national security charge of “enmity against God.” 

Furthermore, Iran executed two men who were associated with the anti-government protests in the Islamic Republic that occurred last September.

There were several countries identified that keep their rates of executions a closely guarded secret. 

Among these countries are China, North Korea, and Vietnam, countries which the report noted “are known to use the death penalty extensively.” 

While Amnesty International reported that the global figure would be much higher if the rates of execution in these countries were known, there was not enough information to include them within the report. 

The report suggested that China’s total number of executions could be ahead of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United States.

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