- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The number of peopled executed by governments around the world surged in 2015, according to a report Wednesday by Amnesty International, which listed China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as leading the way with the death penalty.

“At least 1,634 people were executed in 2015, a rise of more than 50% on the year before and the highest number Amnesty International has recorded since 1989,” the London-based human rights organization said.

While that recorded total did not include China because death penalty is treated as a state secret by Beijing, Amnesty said it believes the Chinese government “remained the world’s top executioner,” putting an additional thousands to death in 2015.

“There are signs that the number of executions in China has decreased in recent years, but the secrecy around the death penalty makes this impossible to confirm for certain,” the organization said on its website.

“The rise in executions last year is profoundly disturbing. Not for the last 25 years have so many people been put to death by states around the world, said Salil Shetty, the secretary general of Amnesty International, which has long waged a advocacy campaign calling for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.

With regard to recorded executions, the highest numbers came in Iran, where at least 977 people were put to death in 2015, compared to at least 743 a year earlier. While Iranian dissident groups often accused Tehran for carrying out politically motivated executions, Amnesty said the “vast majority” of last year’s cases were “for drug-related crimes.”

The organization also said Iran remains “one of the world’s last executioners of juvenile offenders, in flagrant breach of international law.” Last year saw the nation put at least four people to death who were under 18 at the time of the crime for which they were convicted, Amnesty said.

It said Pakistan sent more than 320 people to the gallows in 2015, the highest number ever recorded by Amnesty. In Saudi Arabia, the number rose by 76 percent from 2014, with at least 158 people executed last year.

The U.S., meanwhile, remained fifth on the worldwide list of nations carrying out the most executions, with 28 carried out in 2015 — the lowest number since 1991.

Amnesty noted that 18 U.S. states have fully abolished the death penalty. The organization also claimed modest success in its push to have the practice banned around the world in 2015.

“For the first time ever, a majority of the world’s countries — 102 — have now fully abolished the death penalty,” it said. “In total, 140 states across the globe are abolitionist in law or practice.”

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