By Brian Evans, Campaigner for Amnesty International USA’s Death Penalty Abolition Campaign.
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First, the good news. In 1961, the year Amnesty International was founded, only 9 countries had completely abolished the death penalty (10 if you count West Germany). By 1977, the year Amnesty International simultaneously won the Nobel Peace Prize and took up death penalty abolition as a priority human rights cause, there were still only 16 such countries (plus West Germany).
Since then, there has been a sea change. As documented in Amnesty International’s new report on Death Sentences and Executions in 2010, 96 countries have fully abolished capital punishment, while only 58 actively retain it (and only 23 carried out executions in 2010). The remaining 43 nations have the death penalty on the books, but do not really use it. So, basically, more than two-thirds of the world’s countries are living without the death penalty. (And thanks to Illinois, so are almost one-third of U.S.
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