- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2014

Call 2013 the year of the execution. Amnesty International released a new report Thursday, which says there has been a 15 percent increase in the use of the death penalty worldwide.

China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia and the United States all topped the list of countries with known executions, the nonprofit reported. The global spike, it noted, is primarily attributable to Iran. Known executions in the Middle Eastern nation were 369.

The top five countries in terms of verifiable executions were:

China: 778

Iran: 369

• Iraq: 169

• Saudi Arabia:79

• United States: 39 (down from 43 in 2012)

The nonprofit noted that China’s numbers were only known executions because it is believed the Communist nation actually puts thousands to death each year — enough to compile more deaths than the rest of the world combined.

Countries like North Korea would make Amnesty International’s list, but reports of executions could not be independently verified.

For instance, the organization believes at least 70 executions were carried out by the secretive Communist regime, but the numbers could not be confirmed.

The report did, however, cite a U.N. Commission of Inquiry hearing on Kim Jong-un’s regime, in which former prison camp detainee Shin Dong-hyuk recounted his tale.

“In the camp, twice a year, there was a public execution. I don’t know exact meaning of that, but I think that in order to keep the prisoners on their toes and to scare them,” said Shin. “I think that’s why they held this public execution twice a year. In front of many inmates, the prisoners, they would tie this one person against the wooden column they would shoot or they would strangle them … The first time I witnessed such an execution was when I was five.”

Amnesty International noted that two decades ago, 37 countries actively implemented the death penalty, but the number fell to 22 by 2013.

“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,” said Salil Shetty, the organization’s Secretary General.