World News

China to swap bullets for lethal injections

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s capital plans to use lethal injections in executions by the end of the year and firing squads will eventually be phased out across the country, state media on said on Tuesday, quoting law officials.

Lethal injections were “cleaner, safer and more convenient,” the official China Daily quoted the director of China’s Supreme People’s Court, Hu Yunteng, as saying.

“As lethal injection is the most popular method for execution adopted by countries with capital punishment, China will follow suit ... it is considered more humane,” Hu added, although a complete nationwide shift was a long-term goal because of costs.

In the capital, however, a new facility near a prison that houses most of the capital’s death row inmates has rooms for execution, observation and storage of bodies, the Beijing News reported.

Special judicial police would be trained to deliver the prisoners and administer the injections, while medical staff would supervise the drugs and confirm the deaths, the report added.

Lethal injection was legalised in China in 1997, and was first used in southwestern Yunnan region the next year, the China Daily said. Beijing began using the method to execute some prisoners in 2000, but it is still rare.

China is probably the world’s most prolific state executioner, with at least 7,000 people sentenced to death and 1,718 people executed last year, according to rights group Amnesty International.

It has drawn criticism from rights activists for the high execution rate and the range of crimes that carry the death penalty. It now applies to more than 60 offences in China, including many non-violent and economic crimes.

In January 2007, the Supreme People’s Court regained the power of final approval of death penalties, devolved to provincial high courts in the 1980s, and it promised to apply the ultimate punishment more carefully.

In the United States, there was a de facto moratorium on the death penalty late in 2007 and early in 2008 as the Supreme Court considered whether lethal injection was cruel and unusual punishment. The court ruled that it was not in April last year.

Editing by Sugita Katyal