China: Amnesty International calls for end to executions, not expansion of lethal injection method

Amnesty International today strongly condemned the expansion of China’s lethal injection programme and called on the Chinese authorities to accelerate the abolition of the death penalty.

“This move goes against the spirit of the Olympic Charter for the Beijing Olympics, which places the preservation of human dignity at the heart of the Olympic movement. There is nothing dignified or humane in the state killing of individuals by whatever means,” said Catherine Baber, Director of Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific programme.

It has also taken place just weeks after the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions.

Amnesty International also challenges Jiang Xingchang’s, vice-president of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), to explain how lethal injection execution is more humane than execution by shooting.

 “The extension of the lethal injection programme flies in the face of the clear international trend away from using the death penalty and ignores the problems inherent in this punishment. Arbitrary application, miscarriages of justice including execution of the innocent, and the cruel and inhumane nature of the death penalty cannot be solved by changing the method of execution, said Baber.”

According to Amnesty International, lethal injection as a method of execution raises particular concerns. These include:

• Diverting attention from the suffering inherent in the death penalty by suggesting that death by lethal injection is humane. Evidence shows that it can cause convulsions and a prolonged and painful death. • The potential to cause physical and mental suffering through botched implementation. • The involvement of health personnel in executions. Virtually all codes of professional ethics that consider the death penalty oppose medical or nursing participation.

Amnesty International has welcomed the Supreme People’s Court review of all death sentences passed in China (in force since January 2007), which is expected to result in the reduction of the number of executions. Yet the lack of transparency in the application of the death penalty in China will make it impossible to assess or verify any change in the number of executions being carried out.

“The Chinese authorities must take concrete steps towards the abolition of death penalty. As a first step, China must make public the actual numbers of people executed and radically cut the number of capital offences. A positive legacy for the Beijing Olympics can only be achieved when China’s world record of executions comes to an end,” said Baber.