Catholic bishop Declan Lang has welcomed the emergence of new figures showing a sustained decrease in executions around the globe. Lang has been a key voice in urging the British government to lead the way on the global abolition of the death penalty.
Responding to the 5% drop in recorded executions last year, the clergyman, who chairs the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Department of International Affairs, said: "Catholic teaching is clear that the death penalty is inadmissible and the Church works with determination for its abolition. This applies whatever offence somebody has been convicted of and wherever they are in the world.
“I am very encouraged that globally use of the death penalty has decreased for another year. However, hundreds of people are still being executed by their governments and in some countries, the number has increased dramatically.
“I urge our own government to put working towards global abolition of the death penalty at the forefront of its foreign policy. Through committed diplomatic and economic pressure, the UK can help maintain the momentum towards ending this gross violation of human dignity where it still exists.”
Unfortunately, despite the global decrease, some countries saw an uptick in the number of people put to death. Amnesty International reports that Saudi Arabia, Iraq, South Sudan, and Yemen all bucked the trend with clear spikes in executions. China is thought to be the most prolific global executioner, though the exact number of deaths is kept secret by the government.
Clare Algar, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research, Advocacy and Policy, said: "The death penalty is an abhorrent and inhuman punishment; and there is no credible evidence that it deters crime more than prisons terms. A large majority of countries recognize this and it’s encouraging to see that executions continue to fall worldwide
“However, a small number of countries defied the global trend away from the death penalty by increasingly resorting to executions. Saudi Arabia’s growing use of the death penalty, including as a weapon against political dissidents, is an alarming development. Also shocking was the massive jump in executions in Iraq, which nearly doubled in just one year.
“We must keep up the momentum for the global abolition of the death penalty.
"We are calling on all states to abolish the death penalty. There needs to be international pressure on the world’s last remaining executioners to end this inhuman practice for good.”