source: The Scotsman
published: 17 April 2014
In the Grassmarket in central Edinburgh, a round stone known as the “shadow of the gibbet” marks the site’s history as an execution spot.
While capital punishment continued in Britain long past the last Grassmarket execution in 1784 – the last hanging in Scotland was as late as 1963 – this memorial to such a gruesome practice is an important reminder that barbarity is a part of our history.
Yet in many places around the world, capital punishment is a live issue. While more than two-thirds of countries have now abolished the death penalty, there are still hundreds of state-sanctioned executions each year. This number excludes China as the number of people being put to death is considered a state secret, but is thought to be in the thousands.
Amnesty International’s annual report on the use of the death penalty worldwide makes for chilling reading. Excluding China, almost four-fifths of all executions worldwide took place in just three countries – Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Iran sentenced at least 369 people to death – this was the official number of executions acknowledged by the authorities, but there is credible evidence of the death penalty being carried out in secret, meaning the total number may be more than 700 executions – in just one year.