China is executing at least nine prisoners a week and sentencing a further 35 to death, according to Amnesty International.
In a report published today, the human rights group says that while China tries to keep the figures a state secret, the country put to death at least 470 people last year, making it the world’s most prolific executioner,
At least 1,252 people were executed in 24 different countries last year, while 3,347 were sentenced to death in 51 countries. Amnesty adds that some 27,500 people are now on death row around the world.
Second to China was Iran with 317 executions, followed by Saudi Arabia on 143, Pakistan on 135 and the United States on 42.
Amnesty points out that the United Nations General Assembly voted by a large majority in December for a resolution to end the death penalty.
“The taking of life is one of the most drastic acts a government can undertake. We are urging all governments to follow the commitments made at the UN and abolish the death penalty once and for all,” says the report.
Meanwhile, the father of a boy beheaded in Saudi Arabia last year has filed a lawsuit seeking an official acknowledgment that the execution was unlawful.
Hussein al-Hakami’s son, Mueed, was arrested in the southern province of Jizan for the murder when he was 13 of another boy. A succession of courts dismissed several appeals for clemency over a three-year period.
By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Last Updated: 1:26am BST 15/04/2008