Iran, Iran lead 2013 execution surge.
Virtual “killing sprees” in Iran and Iraq led to a spike in the number of executions globally last year, according to Amnesty International, at odds with a steady decline in the use of the death penalty around the world over the last two decades, CNN informs.
Executions by beheading, electrocution, firing squad, hanging and lethal injection rose by almost 15 percent in 2013 on the previous year, the organization said in its latest report on the death penalty released Thursday.
China executed more people than any other country last year. Although Chinese authorities treat official execution statistics as a state secret, Amnesty International estimates thousands are killed under the death penalty every year, more than the rest of the world combined.
Excluding China, executions rose to at least 778 last year, up from 682 in 2012.
Iran came in second, with at least 369 put to death by the state, followed by Iraq (169), Saudi Arabia (79), and the United States (39).
The United States was the only country in the Americas that performed executions, although use of the death penalty declined last year, to 39 executions from 43 in 2012. Texas accounted for more than 40 percent of all American executions.
In total, 22 countries practiced capital punishment last year, one more than in 2012. Four of those countries – Indonesia, Kuwait, Nigeria and Vietnam – resumed executions after a hiatus.
Amnesty International could not confirm if executions took place in countries in conflict, but said it “cannot be excluded” that executions took place in Syria and Egypt.
At the end of 2013, more than 23,000 people were on death row around the world.
“The virtual killing sprees we saw in countries like Iran and Iraq were shameful,” Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty said in a statement.
He added, “those states who cling to the death penalty are on the wrong side of history and are, in fact, growing more and more isolated.”
Despite “alarming levels of executions in an isolated group of countries,” Amnesty noted that the majority of the world is abolitionist in law or practice.
The use of the death penalty has declined in the last 20 years, and the number of countries enforcing the death penalty has fallen from 37 in 1993 to 22 last year – evidence that executions are becoming “a thing of the past,” the report said.
Some countries that performed executions in 2012, including Gambia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, suspended use of the death penalty last year.
No executions were carried out in Europe and Central Asia – marking the first time since 2009. Belarus – the only country in the region that still has the death penalty – did not execute anyone in 2013.
In the Middle East and North Africa, many of those executed were convicted under “vague anti-terrorism laws,” the report said.
In Iran, where official figures indicate a rise in executions of 18% on 2012, Amnesty International said it had recorded “numerous cases” in which it appeared the death penalty had been used to oppress activities of Iran’s ethnic minorities.
Iraq saw an increase in executions of more than 30% compared to the previous year, the highest figure since 2003. Most executions in recent years are thought to have resulted from convictions under an anti-terror bill that covers acts such as “provoking, planning, financing, committing or supporting others to commit terrorism.”