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Amnesty International has released its annual report on the implementation of the death penalty around the world. The total number of executions in 2013 went up compared to 2012, largely due to spikes in Iran and Iraq.
The report from Amnesty, released on Thursday, showed that worldwide, at least 778 executions were known to have been carried out in 2013, compared to 682 in 2012. Both figures exclude executions carried out in China, as this number is kept secret by the Chinese government. Amnesty estimates the number of people put to death in China is in the thousands every year.
The increase in executions in 2013 is, according to Amnesty, mostly due to rises in instances of the death penalty in Iran (at least 369 executions) and Iraq (169).
"The virtual killing sprees we saw in countries like Iran and Iraq were shameful. But those states who cling to the death penalty are on the wrong side of history and are, in fact, growing more and more isolated," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's Secretary General, in a statement.
The figures put Iran and Iraq second and third on the list of total executions in 2013, behind China's presumed figure in the thousands. Saudi Arabia and the United States rounded out the top five in terms of total executions with 79 and 39, respectively.
Despite the overall increase in the number of executions, Amnesty said the global trend was moving away from the use of the death penalty as a means of criminal punishment.
"Only a small number of countries carried out the vast majority of these senseless state-sponsored killings. They can't undo the overall progress already made towards abolition," Shetty said. "The long-term trend is clear – the death penalty is becoming a thing of the past. We urge all governments who still kill in the name of justice to impose a moratorium on the death penalty immediately, with a view to abolishing it."
The report indicated that for the first time since 2009, Europe and Central Asia did not see any executions. The only country in these regions that has not abolished the death penalty is Belarus, which Amnesty said did not carry out any executions in 2013.
The report indicated that beheading, electrocution, firing squad, hanging and lethal injection were among the methods used to execute people in 2013. Some people were put to death for drug-related or economic crimes, as well as adultery or blasphemy. Political crimes were also grounds for execution in some countries. In Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Somalia, public executions were conducted, and in Saudi Arabia, three juveniles were put to death, according to Amnesty.
The United States was the only country in the Americas to implement the death penalty. Of the country's 39 executions, 41 percent were in the state of Texas. Maryland became the 18th US state to abolish the death penalty.
mz/kms (AP, AFP)