Despite calls to countries retaining capital punishment to be transparent about their executions, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan's latest report on the use of the death penalty worldwide laments the absence of a full accounting for death sentences and their consequences.
An analysis of recent replies to a UN survey by 18 Member States confirms the finding of a report on the same subject, issued in March, that "many retentionist States did not provide accurate and comprehensive statistics on the number of death sentences imposed, appeals allowed, or executions carried out by age, gender and type of offence," the report to the General Assembly's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) says.
The 18 responses bring to 70 the number of countries which have replied to the seventh survey in 35 years, "seven more than replied to the sixth survey," it says.
Seven of the 18 respondents have abolished capital punishment for all crimes. Brazil has abolished it for ordinary crimes, but has not executed anyone since 1855, while Brunei Darussalam has not carried out an execution since 1957 and Madagascar, which is drafting a law on abolishing the death penalty, has not executed anyone since its independence in 1960, the report says.
The eight States which have kept the death penalty on the books, whether or not they have executed any prisoners in recent years, are Ghana, Jamaica, Republic of Korea, Serbia and Montenegro, Tanzania, Tunisia, the United States and Zimbabwe, it says.
The countries each have at least a few safeguards, which include a minimum age for people sentenced, prohibitions against executing a person who is pregnant, insane or mentally retarded, unquestionable evidence of guilt, competent courts, the right to appeal the sentence and the right to request a commutation of sentence or a pardon.
The Secretary-General says the low response from the 191 UN Member States suggests that the form of the survey needs to be reconsidered.