The Africa ReportAmnesty International (AI) has appealed to South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, The Gambia and Botswana to abolish the death penalty, which they have reinstated.
AI said South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Gambia and Botswana were the only African countries to carry out executions last year.
The Amnesty yearly review, released early Wednesday in London, said the overall shift away from death sentences and executions continued in 2012.
Executions in South Sudan, for example, are reviewed by the Supreme Court and approved by the president as required by law.
But Amnesty has expressed concerns that the country's nascent judicial system might not be able to guarantee a fair trial.
"Quite often people were unable to follow the court proceedings and
potentially they did not speak the language that the court officials
"Quite often the defendants didn't have access to lawyers," Jan Erik
Wetzel, an adviser on the death penalty to Amnesty, told journalists.
In many parts of the world, executions are being abolished, with only
21 countries recorded as having carried out executions in 2012, the
same as in 2011, but down from 28 countries a decade earlier.
In Africa, progress was measured in many countries, with Sierra
Leone, Benin and Madagascar ratifying a key UN treaty committing the
countries to abolishing the death penalty.
Ghana also moved towards banning capital punishment in its new
constitution, while no death sentences were imposed in Benin, Burkina
Faso and Malawi.
Last year, South Sudan joined 111 countries to vote in favour of a
United Nations resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty.
However, the country has asked for time to change its policies.
"South Sudan agrees with the logic of abolishing the death penalty.
But we believe that this is a process that could be approached
gradually," South Sudan's permanent representative in Geneva, Riek Puok
Riek, told the UN Human Rights Council last year at a meeting in
In its report, AI said some African governments cling to alleged
public support for the death penalty as a way to justify executions, and
forget that the death penalty is a human rights violation and they
should be engaging the public on abolition.
There were 682 confirmed executions in 21 countries in 2012, two more than were recorded in 2011.
China executes more people than any other country but keeps the data
secret. The US executed 43 people in 2012, the same figure as the
The top five countries in terms of numbers of executions last year
remained China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
In many countries where the death penalty is still used, there are
serious concerns about the fairness of the judicial proceedings – making
it very likely that innocent people might be put to death.