The death penalty in Asia in 2008

Former judge Kumamoto Norimichi, who sentenced a man to death 40 years ago in Japan

© Amnesty International

More people were executed in Asia in 2008 than in the rest of the world put together. At least 1,838 (76 per cent) of all total reported executions were carried out by Asian states.

The following 11 countries are known to have carried out a total of at least 1,838 executions in 2008: China (at least 1,718), Pakistan (at least 36), Viet Nam (at least 19), Afghanistan (at least 17), North Korea (at least 15), Japan (15), Indonesia (10), Bangladesh (5), Mongolia (at least 1), Malaysia (at least 1), and Singapore (at least 1).

The following 16 countries are known to have sentenced a total of least 7,767 people to death: China (at least 7,003), Pakistan (at least 236), Bangladesh (at least 185), Afghanistan (131), India (at least 70), Viet Nam (at least 59), Japan (27), Malaysia (at least 22), Indonesia (at least 10), Taiwan (at least 8), Singapore (5), Thailand (at least 3), North Korea (+), South Korea (at least 2), Sri Lanka (2) and Laos (2).

In both Mongolia and North Korea, executions are marked by secrecy and a lack of transparency. This means that it is impossible for Amnesty International to gain reliable statistics and information about the use of the death penalty in these two countries.

In China, those facing capital charges do not receive fair trails. Failings include the lack of prompt access to lawyers, a lack of presumption of innocence, political interference in the judiciary and failure to exclude evidence extracted through torture.

After the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) began to review all death sentences on 1 January 2007, authorities have been reporting a drop in the number of death sentences. According to a senior SPC official, the SPC overturned about 15 per cent of the death sentences handed down by high courts in the first half of 2008. However, statistics on death sentences and executions remain state secrets and it is impossible for external observers to verify this claim.

The estimated number of people on death row in Pakistan is over 7,000. In June 2008, the Prime Minister announced that death sentences would be commuted to life imprisonment. Despite this, a Presidential Ordinance was issued in November that extended the death penalty to cyber crimes - and executions continued.

carried out a total of 15 executions in 2008 (the highest known number since 1975). There are estimated to be approximately 100 people on death row. The prison authorities reportedly carry out executions by hanging, usually in secret. In June, Japan executed three men, including Miyazaki Tsutomu. According to his lawyer, he was mentally ill and had been receiving psychiatric medical treatment in the detention centre for more than a decade.

Death sentences and executions in 2008 – developments around the worldwide application of the death penalty in 2008.