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October 28, 2008
Contrary to global trend, death penalty rises in Japan


Albania, the Cook Islands and Rwanda have banned the death penalty this year.

Japan executed two men on Tuesday in defiance of a United Nations report criticizing the country’s use of the death penalty. The nation has hung 17 people this year — the highest rate of execution in decades.

Read a Global Voices post from last year detailing Japanese bloggers’ opinions about the death penalty.

In May, Anna Kitanaka of “JapanINC” examined international media response to Japan’s growing executions.

Despite Japan’s rise in executions, recent figures show that a total of 94 countries have abolished the death penalty, suggesting a global shift toward eliminating the practice.

Last year, 88 percent of all executions took place in five countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the U.S.

China — the number one executioner — has reformed its handling of capital cases but refuses to revoke the death penalty despite please from human rights organizations. A blogger at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs examines the future prospects of the death penalty in China.

Iran trails China in executions, and completed its largest mass execution in years in July. The country recently upheld the juvenile death penalty and 120 teenagers now await execution. A writer at the online magazine “Commentary” compares the death penalty and judicial process in Iran to Texas.

Saudi Arabia’s executions have risen rharply this year. The nation is one of seven remaining countries that punish homosexuality with death. Blogger “Richard,” a homosexual man living in America, discusses the level to which the laws are enforced and reacts to the situation of homosexuals in Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan has reduced several death sentences to life imprisonment over the last year. The sentence of Sarabjit Singh — an Indian sentenced to death in Pakistan following bomb attacks in 1990 — was lessened. Sigh’s case has drawn the attention of Pakistanis and Indians alike, and blogger “Yogi” defends Singh‘s case.

U.S. rates of execution have declined over the past decade, with 42 executions last year. More than 60 percent of executions took place in Texas. Blogger M.M. McDermott discusses the philosophy behind capital punishment and argues that crime deterrence and punishment are not valid reasons for the practice — though there are practical reasons.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user jastacey128 under a Creative Commons license.

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