10/04/2004

Frauder le fisc: peine de mort!

China Executed 726 People in 2003

By JOE McDONALD
Associated Press Writer

April 7, 2004, 1:32 AM EDT

BEIJING -- China carried out nearly two-thirds of the world's known court-ordered executions last year, and violated its own law by killing at least one man for a crime committed at age 16, according to Amnesty International.

China executed at least 726 people last year, out of 1,146 reported put to death worldwide, the London-based human rights group said in its 2003 report on the death penalty. Following China, are Iran with at least 108 executions, the United States with 65, Vietnam with 64 and Saudi Arabia with 50.

"The People's Republic of China continues to carry out more judicial executions than the rest of the world combined," said the report, issued Tuesday.

Citing "limited and incomplete records," Amnesty said the true number of executions in China is "believed to be much higher" than reported.

The group called on the communist government to suspend its use of the death penalty.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment but has in the past dismissed the Amnesty's reports as "groundless."

China executes convicts for crimes ranging from murder and rape to nonviolent offenses such as taking bribes or evading taxes. Courts use both gunshot and lethal injection.

Amnesty complained that China fails to provide fair trials, citing Communist Party influence over verdicts and limited access to defense lawyers. It noted reports of torture routinely being used to extract confessions from defendants and lengthy pre-trial detention
-- in one case lasting 28 years.

China also broke its own laws in one instance.

"Despite a prohibition on executing juveniles who commit a capital crime under the age of 18, China executed a man in January 2003 for a crime he committed when he was 16," the group said.

The survey was released to coincide with the annual meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, which Amnesty urged "to move to end all executions."

China has tried in recent years to improve professional standards in its courts and create a more predictable legal system. Under Chinese law, death sentences are automatically appealed, though reversals are rare.

But authorities rely heavily on death sentences, often publicized in the state press, to reassure the public that they are taking action against rampant corruption and crime.


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