The use of the death penalty is broadly diminishing around the world, although a handful of countries that had not used capital punishment for several years resumed executions last year, Amnesty International said yesterday.
India, Japan, Pakistan and Gambia, all countries which had not put people to death for some time, resumed executions last year, and there was an “alarming escalation” in executions in Iraq, the rights group said in its annual survey of the death penalty.
London-based Amnesty said at least 129 people were executed in Iraq last year, almost double the 2011 figure of 68.
India carried out its first execution since 2004 when Ajmal Kasab, one of the gunmen involved in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, was hanged in November.
However, the use of the death penalty continues to be restricted to an isolated group of countries, and progress toward its abolition was made in every region of the world.
A total of 21 countries were recorded as carrying out executions last year — the same number as in 2011, but a sharp drop from 28 countries in 2003.
Last year, at least 682 executions were known to have been carried out worldwide, two more than in 2011. At least 1,722 newly imposed death sentences in 58 countries could be confirmed, compared with 1,923 in 63 countries the year before.
However, Amnesty stressed that its figures do not include the thousands of executions that it believes were carried out in China, where details are shrouded in secrecy.
“The regression we saw in some countries this year was disappointing, but it does not reverse the worldwide trend against using the death penalty. In many parts of the world, executions are becoming a thing of the past,” Amnesty secretary- general Salil Shetty said.
“Only one in 10 countries in the world carries out executions. Their leaders should ask themselves why they are still applying a cruel and inhumane punishment that the rest of the world is leaving behind,” Shetty said.
China led the top five countries using the death penalty, followed by Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the US, with Yemen close behind.
Methods of executions last year included hanging, beheading, firing squad and lethal injection. In Saudi Arabia, the body of one man executed through beheading was displayed in what is known as “crucifixion.”
The US remains the only country in the Americas to carry out executions — the total number, 43, was the same as in 2011, but only nine states carried out executions last year, compared with 13 in 2011.